It’s been known for a long time that binge drinking is dangerous and has a number of negative effects and consequences, including physical and mental health problems, traffic accidents, strained family relationships, problems with work and school and even death. However, a study looked at the economic impacts of binge drinking in the United States and revealed a startling finding: The country’s binge drinking problem cost $249 billion in just one year.
With the rise of microbreweries, wine tours, and recreational activities in recent years, the relationship between alcohol and the economy might seem to be a good one. More drinking is good for businesses that rely on alcohol sales, but excessive drinking harms the economy as a whole.
The Cost of Binge Drinking
Even though it might be difficult to see how binge drinking will affect anyone other than the person drinking and their families at first glance, the true costs of alcohol are felt by everyone. The costs of binge drinking can be broken up into four main categories:
- Workplace Productivity: After a night of heavy drinking, it’s not uncommon for an individual to show up late or miss work. This creates a loss in productivity, costing the company or agency time — which translates to lost money. Even if a worker does make it to work and is on time, they are less likely to be as productive as they normally are. Alcohol consumption prevents adequate rest and can make people feel fatigued and sluggish. It can also make it more difficult to concentrate or think clearly. Workplace productivity is estimated to represent the majority of economic losses caused by binge drinking, making up 72% of the total national cost.
- Health Care: Binge drinking can cause short-term health effects like alcohol poisoning or injury, which require medical care. There are also long-term effects of binge drinking, which can be just as costly. Binge drinking over a long period of time can cause chronic diseases like high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, cancer and many other types of physical and mental health problems. Health care costs make up about 11% of the total cost of binge drinking.
- Criminal Justice: Excessive alcohol consumption makes for bad decisions and reckless behavior. People who binge drink are more likely to get in car accidents, be violent and commit crimes. All of these activities accrue costs to the criminal justice system, making up 10% of the total cost.
- Collisions: No one should drive while above their legal alcohol consumption limit. Unfortunately, people who binge drink still drive and get in dangerous and deadly accidents, causing crashes that account for 5% of the total cost of binge drinking.
Excessive Alcohol Use by State
The costs of excessive alcohol use vary depending on many factors, including alcohol use by state. The top three states which have the highest per capita costs associated with binge drinking are Alaska, New Mexico, and Wyoming. The bottom three states that are the least affected are Utah, Iowa, and Nebraska.
It’s difficult to understand why some states have higher costs and more excessive drinking than others. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a searchable database with alcohol use statistics by state that provides information about the different costs of excessive alcohol use. Regardless of the different reasons and the variability of costs, binge drinking costs every community and every taxpayer.
Reducing Alcohol Abuse and Its Impact on the Economy
Now that researchers are aware of the scope of the problem and are sharing information with the public, it’s possible to move forward and reduce the economic impact of alcohol abuse.
According to the CDC, local communities can use comprehensive interventions to prevent excessive drinking and reduce the costs and harms associated with it. These interventions include:
- Increasing the price of alcohol using pricing strategies
- Creating regulations to control the number of locations where alcohol is sold (outlet density)
- Making alcohol retailers liable for injuries or damages caused by the intoxication of their customers
- Finding ways to avoid moving from state-controlled alcohol sales to commercial alcohol sales (privatization)
All of these steps can help regulate alcohol and the economy and save money, time and lives.
While the economic impact of alcohol abuse is high, nothing can quantify the loss of life and the destruction that excessive alcohol consumption can have on one’s life. If you think that you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, there are many treatment centers available. Reaching out to a representative at The Recovery Village can be a significant first step on your journey to recovery.
Centers for Disease Control. “Fact Sheets – Binge Drinking.” Accessed July 21, 2019. Centers for Disease Control. “The Real Cost of Excessive Alcohol Use.” Accessed July 21, 2019. Centers for Disease Control. “Excessive Drinking is Draining the U.S. Economy.” Accessed July 21, 2019. Sacks, Jeffrey J. et al. “National and State Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2010. Accessed July 21, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control. “Fact Sheets – Binge Drinking.” Accessed July 21, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control. “The Real Cost of Excessive Alcohol Use.” Accessed July 21, 2019.
Centers for Disease Control. “Excessive Drinking is Draining the U.S. Economy.” Accessed July 21, 2019.
Sacks, Jeffrey J. et al. “National and State Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2010. Accessed July 21, 2019.