Objective: To determine prospectively the causes of upper GI hemorrhage (UGIH) in alcoholics, focusing on the prevalence of alcoholic gastropathy, and to compare the etiology of bleeding in patients who drink alcohol to that of nondrinkers. Methods: From August 1, 1990 through September 9, 1994, all patients evaluated by the gastroenterology consultative service at a large innercity hospital presenting with UGIH were prospectively identified. Patients had to have a subnormal hematocrit on or within 12 h of admission or a fall of at least 5 points from a previous baseline determination to be included. Upper GI endoscopy was performed in all patients within 48 h of admission. Alcohol use was quantitated as chronic (80 g or more per day for at least 1 month), binge, occasional, or none. Results: Over the 4-yr study period, 727 patients met the inclusion criteria, and of these, 212 (29%) were classified as chronic alcohol users. Overall, peptic ulcer disease was the most common cause of bleeding (60%). Gastropathy (diffuse subepithelial hemorrhage) was considered etiological in only 32 patients (4%). The most common causes of gastropathy were portal hypertension in 22 patients and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug use in five. Only three patients were identified in whom alcoholic gastropathy was considered etiological; in these patients, bleeding was mild and self-limited. When the causes of bleeding were compared between drinkers and nondrinkers, drinkers were more likely to bleed from varices (p = 0.024) or other portal hypertension-related causes (p < 0.01), whereas peptic ulcer was more common in nondrinkers compared with chronic users (67 vs 53%; p < 0.01). Esophagitis (p = 0.95) and Mallory- Weiss tear (p = 0.15) prevalences were not significantly different between the two groups. Conclusion: In the actively drinking patient, the most common causes of UGIH are peptic ulcer and disorders related to portal hypertension. Alcoholic gastropathy appears to be a rare and previously overemphasized cause of bleeding.