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Excessive Drinking Costs U.S. $223.5 Billion

Excessive alcohol consumption is known to kill about 88,000 people in the United States each year, but a study released by the CDC and The Lewin Group shows that it has a huge impact on our wallets as well.

Chart: 1 drink = $1.90 in economic cost.The cost of excessive alcohol consumption in the United States reached $223.5 billion in 2006 or about $1.90 per drink. Almost three-quarters of these costs were due to binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more alcoholic beverages per occasion for women or five or more drinks per occasion for men, and is the most common form of excessive alcohol consumption in the United States.

The researchers found that the cost of excessive drinking was quite far-reaching, reflecting the effect this dangerous behavior has on many aspects of the drinker’s life and on the lives of those around them. The costs largely resulted from losses in workplace productivity (72% of the total cost), health care expenses for problems caused by excessive drinking (11% of total), law enforcement and other criminal justice expenses related to excessive alcohol consumption (9% of total), and motor vehicle crash costs from impaired driving (6% of the total).

The study analyzed national data from multiple sources to estimate the costs due to excessive drinking in 2006, the most recent year for which data were available. The study did not consider a number of other costs such as those because of pain and suffering among either the excessive drinker or others that were affected by their drinking, and thus may be an underestimate. Nevertheless, the researchers estimated that excessive drinking cost $746 for every man, woman, and child in the United States in 2006.

Chart: Binge drinking 76% of costs. Binge drinking is defined as 4 or more alcoholic beverages per occasion for women or 5 or more drinks per occasion for men. 1 in 7 people binge drink.What You Need to Know About Binge Drinking

  • Binge drinking is reported by about 18% of U.S. adults.
  • Binge drinking is most common among men, 18- to 34-year-olds, white people, and people with household incomes of $75,000 or more.
  • Most binge drinkers are not alcohol dependent.

How Can We Prevent Excessive Alcohol Consumption and Reduce Its Economic Costs?

Communities can use evidence-based strategies, such as those recommended by the Community Preventive Services Task Force to prevent excessive drinking. These include:

  • Increasing alcohol excise taxes.
  • Reducing alcohol outlet density.
  • Reducing the days and hours of alcohol sales.
  • Holding alcohol retailers liable for injuries or damage done by their intoxicated or underage customers.

By implementing these evidence-based strategies, we can reduce excessive alcohol consumption and the many health and social costs related to it.

More Information

  • Page last reviewed: April 17, 2014
  • Page last updated: April 17, 2014
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
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