Binge Drinking Costs Billions, Says CDC


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Americans love their beer, and the recent rise in specialty spirits and microbreweries means more choices than ever. However, alcohol consumption could be costing U.S. states billions in healthcare and other costs.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today released estimates showing that "excessive" alcohol consumption cost U.S. states a median of $2.9 billion in 2006. Binge drinking, which the CDC's report states accounts for 70% of these costs, is defined by the CDC as five or more drinks on a single occasion for men and four or more drinks on a single occasion for women. The overall costs for excessive drinking in the U.S. totaled $223.5 billion in 2006.

California had the highest excessive alcohol-related costs, paying $32 billion in 2006. North Dakota was the lowest, paying $420 million. The CDC estimates that, nationwide, the average cost for a state is around $1.91 per drink. The associated costs come from a variety of sources, mainly lost productivity, court costs, healthcare costs, and property damage. The CDC also stated that these costs may be underestimates, since they do not take into account the affects of excessive drinking on the people who are caused "pain and suffering" by those who drink to excess.

“Excessive alcohol use has devastating impacts on individuals, families, communities, and the economy,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC. “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.”

The CDC estimates that 80,000 people in the U.S. die each year due to excessive alcohol consumption. It also estimates that 2.3 million years of "potential life" are lost each year due to the practice.