How Much Does Excessive Drinking Cost the Economy?

Vox: “A new study [by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] shows the striking cost of alcohol on the American economy: Excessive drinking cost the US $249 billion in 2010, or $2.05 per drink — a significant increase from $223.5 billion in 2006, or $1.90 per drink.”

“The state-level estimates are striking nonetheless, with alcohol costing society anywhere from $592 per person in Utah to $1,526 per person in Washington, DC. On a per-drink basis, alcohol cost society the least in New Hampshire ($0.92 per drink) and the most in New Mexico ($2.77 per drink).”

Alcohol costs society more than $2.40 per drink in some states.

“What contributes to these costs? Alcohol is associated with a host of problems, such as lost productivity, more crime (40 percent of violent crimes in the US involve alcohol), early death (one in 10 deaths among working-age adults are due to excessive drinking), and emergency room visits (more than 4.6 million in 2010). These effects can vary from state to state, depending on other socioeconomic conditions.”

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  • snickering

    Congratulations Sara Goddard. I hope Teagan fully appreciates your methodical, precise Thinking. I certainly do and will pass on to everyone I know.

  • compared to what?

    what do stats like this mean? if alcohol didn’t exist alcoholics would become more productive nstead of findng a different way to self p-medicate?

    • pisher

      It’s a bit like asking what if fat or sugar or carbohydrates did not exist. These are all good and necessary things that some people overindulge in. Alcohol is less necessary, but moderate consumption of wine and beer is actually very healthy, as many a scientific study has demonstrated. We’ve been fermenting various plant materials to produce intoxicating beverages for close to 10,000 years now. Possibly much longer.

      There are also undeniable economic benefits to alcohol consumption. Wine and beer are worth many billions in income to the U.S. economy. Bourbon production is a major part of Kentucky’s economy–there are, I once read, more bourbon barrels in that state than there are people, and that’s a product avidly sought and consumed all over the planet.

      No question increased marijuana consumption will lead to lost productivity–self-evidently–and yet we’ve seen evidence in Colorado that it has certain ameliorating benefits. And if people can make something themselves, there’s not much point talking about what the world would be like if it did not exist. The human animal is composed of many conflicting needs, which can be creative and destructive to it at the same time. I mean, think how much healthier and more productive we’d be if we stopped having sex. 😉

      • no, the article frames it as being about “excessive” drinking, so again you have missed the key point as an excuse to indulge in one of your hobbyhorses. my only point is that math like this is half-complete at best as it does not reckon with an alternative scenario.

        • pisher

          And again you make a cranky disputatious response for no discernible reason other than that you don’t like being upstaged, even if the person responding is agreeing with you. 🙂

          There can be no excessive drinking (I don’t see the need for quote marks, excessive drinking is not something the existence of which can plausibly be denied) without drinking as a whole. If there is going to be drinking, there is going to be excessive drinking. Period. Ad infinitum, world without end. As long as people drink, some people will be drunks. We can try to attack it as a social problem, and we have, repeatedly, and by many different methods, some more effective than others (AA), some more socially disastrous than others (Prohibition).

          Btw, the correct use of that expression would be to say I was CLIMBING onto one of my hobbyhorses. And I would say you just got thrown off of one of yours. 😉

  • LKM

    In a previous article, NH was listed as the state that consumed the most per-capita of hard alcohol and was very high in beer and wine consumption as well. Their cost per capita are a lot less here. Presumably the same percentage of the population costs the state money, but because so many people drink, it is less per person. What’s my point, that there are a percent of the population that are problem drinkers and they are the ones costing the state money. The rest, not so much.

    • pisher

      People with alcohol abuse problems often have other substance abuse problems as well, and probably some issues that they’re self-medicating with various intoxicants, so they’d likely be some kind of burden on the state regardless. If they mainly go with booze, it’s because that’s the path of least resistance, and/or because that’s the drug of choice for their social set.

      The question isn’t “Why do people drink?” Its potential benefits are well known, as are its potential adverse effects. The question is “Why do some people drink so much?”, and there are a lot of different answers to that question. That people have been asking since before the dawn of history.

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