November 24, 2015
Taxpayers shouldered billions of dollars in costs related to increases in excessive drinking as the US economy collapsed in the late 2000s, according to a recent CDC study.
The study projected the cost of excessive drinking in 2010 based on changes in 26 factors, including inflation in the cost of medical care, that the investigators had used to estimate the 2006 economic toll of drinking too much. They found that problem drinking cost the United States $249 billion in 2010, or $2.05 per drink, a substantial increase from $223.5 billion, or $1.90 per drink, in 2006. Binge drinking was responsible for 77% of the costs, followed by underage drinking (10%) and drinking among pregnant women (2%). Most of the costs were due to reduced productivity (72%) and treating health-related problems (11%). Taxpayers paid 40% of the bill (Sacks JJ et al. Am J Prev Med. 2015;49:e73-e79).
Excessive alcohol use cost states and the District of Columbia a median of $3.5 billion in 2010, ranging from $488 million in North Dakota to $35 billion in California. Washington, DC, had the highest cost per person ($1526, compared with the $807 national average), and New Mexico had the highest cost per drink ($2.77, compared with the $2.05 national average).
“The increase in the costs of excessive drinking from 2006 to 2010 is concerning, particularly given the severe economic recession that occurred during these years,” Robert Brewer, MD, MSPH, head of CDC’s alcohol program and one of the study’s authors, said in a statement. “Effective prevention strategies can reduce excessive drinking and related costs in states and communities, but they are underused.”
Evidence-based strategies include increasing alcohol excise taxes, limiting the density of alcohol outlets, and establishing commercial host liability. Screening and brief intervention for excessive alcohol use in adults also have been recommended.