Drinking Costs the U.S. Economy Billions Of Dollars Every Year

By May Wilkerson 10/28/15

The cost of excessive alcohol consumption keeps going up.

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Americans’ boozing is costing the economy more than ever, a new study finds. Excessive alcohol consumption cost the United States $249 billion in 2010, about $2.05 per drink. That’s a significant rise from $224.5 billion, or $1.90 per drink, in 2006, according to the report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Researchers say the bulk of these costs were caused by crime, treatment for alcohol-related health problems, and reduced productivity in the workplace. Binge drinking, defined as consuming five or more drinks for men, or four or more for women within a few hours, was responsible for 77% of alcohol-related costs.

Two out of every five dollars—more than $100 billion in total—were paid by the government. States each paid a median of $3.5 billion in alcohol-related costs in 2010, ranging from $488 million in North Dakota to $35 billion in California.

Researchers believe that these numbers may be even higher, since information on alcohol is often underreported or unavailable. The study also did not include other costs, such as treating physical and/or psychological pain and suffering related to alcohol.

These numbers are especially worrisome considering that the US was in the midst of a severe recession during these years, said study co-author Robert Brewer, M.D., M.S.P.H., head of CDC’s Alcohol Program. “Effective prevention strategies can reduce excessive drinking and related costs in states and communities, but they are under used,” he said.

Americans’ alcohol consumption is taking more than just a financial toll. Excessive drinking is responsible for an average of 88,000 deaths a year, including one in 10 deaths among adults ages 20-64.

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May Wilkerson is a writer, comic and Managing Editor @someecards. Co-host of the podcast Crazy; In Bed w/alyssalimp. She is also the top Google result for "insufferable lunatic." Follow this insufferable lunatic on Twitter.