Binge Drinking Has Large Economic Burdens
August 14, 2013

The High Cost Of Excessive Alcohol Use

April Flowers for - Your Universe Online

A new study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reveals that excessive alcohol use causes large economic burdens to states and the District of Columbia. In 2006, the cost to states was a median of $2.9 billion, ranging from $420 million in North Dakota to $32 billion in California. The researchers estimated that every drink consumed cost $1.91 per state. The results of the study will be published in an upcoming issue of the American Journal of Preventative Medicine.

More than 70 percent of excessive alcohol use related costs across all states and DC is attributable to binge drinking – defined as consuming five or more drinks on an occasion for men or four or more drinks on an occasion for women. The highest per-person cost was found in the District ($1,662), while the highest cost per drink was in Utah ($2.74). The study found that for every $5 dollars in cost that the state incurred, the federal government covered $2. This ranged from 37 percent of the costs in Mississippi to 45 percent of the total costs in Utah.

The study findings showed that costs incurred due to excessive drinking came mainly from losses in workplace productivity, health care expenses, and other costs due to a combination of criminal justice expenses, motor vehicle crash costs, and property damage. Costs due to productivity losses ranged from 61 percent in Wyoming to 82 percent in D.C., while costs due to health care expenses ranged from 8 percent in Texas to 16 percent in Vermont.

“Excessive alcohol use has devastating impacts on individuals, families, communities, and the economy,” said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, M.D., M.P.H. “In addition to injury, illness, disease, and death, it costs our society billions of dollars through reduced work productivity, increased criminal justice expenses, and higher healthcare costs.  Effective prevention programs can support people in making wise choices about drinking alcohol.”

The cost estimates were based on a prior study from the CDC. That study assessed costs across 26 cost categories using data from several sources, including the Alcohol-Related Disease Impact Application, the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol-Related Conditions, and the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, finding that excessive drinking cost the United States $223.5 billion in 2006.

The research team believes the study’s findings are underestimated because it did not consider a number of other costs. These further costs include those due to pain and suffering by the excessive drinker and other individuals affected by the drinking.

“It is striking to see most of the costs of excessive drinking in states and D.C. are due to binge drinking, which is reported by about 18 percent of U.S. adults,” said Robert D. Brewer, M.D., M.S.P.H., Alcohol Program Lead at CDC. “Fortunately, the Community Guide includes a number of effective strategies that states and localities can use to prevent binge drinking and the costs related to it.”

An average of 80,000 deaths and 2.3 million years of potential life lost in the US alone occurs every year as a result of excessive alcohol consumption. Over half of these deaths and two-thirds of the years of life lost are caused by binge drinking.