What are the economic effects of alcohol abuse?  In terms of hospital costs, alcohol-related deaths, effects on the family and society in general (i.e., spending more money on booze than other...

What are the economic effects of alcohol abuse?  In terms of hospital costs, alcohol-related deaths, effects on the family and society in general (i.e., spending more money on booze than other life necessities), etc. Please cite scholarly articles, if possible. 

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The single most authoritative source on the economic costs of alcohol abuse is the 2006 report published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine by a team of academic experts in medicine, substance abuse, including treatment, and economics, which was sponsored by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, titled “Economic Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption in the U.S.”  According to this report, a link to which is provided below, the annual cost to the United States associated with alcohol abuse is over $220 billion.  The methodology and data to support to this conclusion is provided in the report linked below.  A large number of factors were analyzed and quantified for consideration in this report, including the costs to society emanating from lost productivity in the workplace associated with alcohol abuse; the provision of medical care for those consuming large quantities of alcohol (and the report emphasizes that binge drinking is the principal cause of alcohol-related financial considerations); costs of treatment for alcoholism absorbed by local, state and federal governments; costs to the criminal justice system of arresting, prosecuting and incarcerating those convicted of alcohol-related crimes, including traffic accidents; costs associated with the repair of automobiles damaged as a result of alcohol abuse; costs associated with the burial of those killed as a result of alcohol abuse and the provision of death benefits to the survivors of those killed; and more.  The report’s findings are summarized as follows:

“In 2006, the estimated total economic cost of excessive alcohol consumption in the United States amounted to $223.5 billion or $1.90 per drink, which equals about $746 for each man, woman, and child on a per capita basis.  Of the $223.5 billion, $161.3 billion (72.3%) represent costs from lost productivity. Of this $161.3 billion, the two greatest losses came from impaired productivity at work (45.9%) and lost productivity due to the 83,180 alcohol-related deaths (40.3%).“

With respect to the problem of binge drinking, the Centers for Disease Control, in its announcement of the findings of the 2006 report, provided the following data:

“Of the total economic costs of excessive drinking, binge drinking amounts to $170.7 billion (76.4%), underage drinking equals $27.0 billion (12.1%), drinking while pregnant represents $5.2 billion, or 2.3% (mostly related to FAS), and the costs of crime come to $73.3 billion (9.2%). The federal, state, and local government bear these economic costs ($94.2 billion) along with excessive drinkers and their families ($92.9 billion), with the government bearing most of the costs for healthcare expenditures and excessive drinkers and their families covering productivity losses.”

As disturbing as these numbers are, especially given the difficulties already being experienced in controlling health care costs and rejuvenating the economy, the report’s authors believe their numbers actually understate the full economic impact of alcohol abuse.  As they state in their concluding paragraphs, “Although the $223.5 billion fıgure is the best currently available estimate of the cost of excessive drinking for 2006, the authors believe it is a substantial underestimate.”

United States Government agencies responsible for collecting and maintaining data on the problems of substance abuse, mainly the National Institutes of Health and the CDC, cite the 2006 study as authoritative.