Signals Alert: Alcohol

Millennium Health Signals Alert™ Shows Pandemic-Era Increases in Alcohol Use Persist Among At-Risk Patients

Urine drug testing data reveal alarming, sustained increases in alcohol use among those with alcohol use disorder; may push higher as summer peak approaches

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – May 21, 2024 – Alcohol use increased across the U.S. during the COVID-19 pandemic but a new Millennium Health Signals Alert™ shows that it increased most dramatically among those with alcohol use disorder (AUD) and has remained elevated; up more than 20% nationally since 2019. This robust analysis of more than 430,000 urine drug test (UDT) results also illustrates that alcohol use is being detected among patients with AUD at over twice the rate of those without AUD.

“These findings are eye opening and reveal that the pandemic had a lasting negative impact on this at-risk group of patients. We’re calling attention to this problem now because our data also show that alcohol use tends to increase in the summer,” said Millennium Health Chief Clinical Officer Angela Huskey, PharmD, CPE. “As the nation continues to grapple with a devastating drug overdose crisis, we must remember that excessive drinking kills nearly 180,000 Americans each year. That’s more than from fentanyl and all other drug overdoses combined.”

Millennium Health’s researchers reported increases in alcohol detection among those with AUD across most of the U.S. The states with the largest gains were AR, AZ, IN, KY, MI, MN, MO, NC, NY and UT.

The Alert also examined the relationship between recent alcohol consumption and the use of other drugs. Compared to patients with AUD who had not consumed alcohol recently, those who had were significantly more likely to use cocaine, methamphetamine, cannabis, and benzodiazepines; further jeopardizing their recovery.

“With this Alert, we hope to raise awareness among clinicians, communities, advocacy groups and policy makers about these concerning trends,” said Scott Walton, Millennium Health Chief Executive Officer. “Now is the time to act. Because the health consequences of excessive drinking are often delayed, the impacts of concerning increases in alcohol use in this vulnerable population could be felt for years to come.”


This Signals Alert represents an analysis of urine drug testing results from urine specimens (N = 434,641) collected between January 1, 2018, and March 15, 2024. Included specimens were from patients aged 18 years or older and collected in health care practices located in all 50 states. A single specimen per patient was selected based on the earliest collection date. All patient specimens were associated with an ICD-10 SUD diagnosis code and had clinician-ordered testing for alcohol. Further detail on the drugs analyzed and statistical methods is provided in the Alert.

Access the Millennium Health Signals Alert here.

About Millennium Health

Millennium Health is an accredited specialty laboratory providing medication monitoring via definitive urine and oral fluid drug tests to support improved clinical decision-making as part of treatment for millions of Americans with chronic pain, mental illness, substance use disorders, and other health conditions. Drug testing is used to obtain objective information about patients’ recent use of prescription medications and/or illicit drugs and helps monitor the effectiveness of treatment plans. We also conduct real-time tracking of emerging drug use trends to help researchers, public health officials, and policymakers address the significant increase in drug overdose deaths.

Media Contact

Jody Schneider
Millennium Health
(619) 917-6810