High Costs of Drinking Too Much

Drinking excessively results in high costs across the US every year

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Drinking too much can result in more than just a hangover. Too much alcohol can lead to expensive health care, property damage costs and missing time at work.

A recent study looked at the financial impact of drinking too much across the US.

The results of the study showed that excessive drinking costs $223.5 billion in 2006 alone.

"Avoid excessive drinking."

Jeffrey J. Sacks, MD, MPH, of Sue Binder Consulting, Inc. in Atlanta, Georgia, led a team at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to study the financial costs associated with excessive alcohol consumption in the US.

Drinking too much can lead to injuries and long-term health problems, trouble at work and home, property damage from accidents and possible arrest for drunk driving or public intoxication. All of these outcomes can cost money.

For this investigation, the researchers looked at the monetary costs of excessive alcohol consumption and binge drinking across the US in 2006.

The researchers looked at data from multiple sources, including the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol-Related Conditions, for different types of alcohol-related costs.

Binge drinking refers to having five or more alcoholic drinks in one sitting for a man, or four or more drinks in one sitting for a woman.

According to the study's authors, excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for roughly 80,000 deaths every year in the US.

The researchers estimated that binge drinking and excessive alcohol use cost an average of $223.5 billion in 2006 alone.

Broken down by state, excessive alcohol use costs anywhere from $419.5 million per year in North Dakota to nearly $31.9 billion in California per year.

The US government paid a median, or mid-range, of 42 percent of the costs associated with excessive drinking.

Binge drinking was responsible for a mid-range of 76.6 percent of the alcohol-related costs. Underage drinking was responsible for a mid-range of 11.2 percent of the alcohol-related costs.

The researchers wrote that most of the costs were due to binge drinking, and that the government paid roughly $2 out of every $5 of those costs.

Most drinking-related costs were due to wages lost from missing work, healthcare services, car and motorcycle crashes, property damage and criminal justice expenses.

The researchers wrote that they believe the results of this study underestimated the total cost, as excessive alcohol consumption most likely affected more than 26 categories. Cost of emotional and mental health impact on family and friends was not included in this study.

“Excessive alcohol use has devastating impacts on individuals, families, communities, and the economy,” Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, Director of the CDC, said in a press statement.

“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,” Dr. Frieden said.

This study was published in August in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

No outside funding sources were used for this project.

Review Date: 
August 14, 2013
Last Updated:
August 22, 2013