We identified 36 English language studies (1950-1985) on alcohol and drownings. The majority of these were descriptive, reporting on the percent of drowning victims positive for alcohol upon autopsy. Most studies fell into one of three categories: Type A--complete ascertainment, duration of submergence specified; Type B--complete ascertainment, duration of submergence unspecified; Type C--partial ascertainment. Among Type A studies, percent of positives for alcohol ranged from 29% to 47%. Among Type B studies, percents ranged from 15% to 69%. Among Type C studies, percents ranged from 18% to 86%. We conclude that (1) between 25% and 50% of adult drowning victims have been exposed to alcohol and that (2) without data on the frequency of alcohol consumption among non-victims engaged in aquatic activities, the causal role of alcohol in drownings is uncertain. Suggestions for further research are offered.