• The cost of drinking

    One of my favorite rituals is making a dirty martini some nights. I even make my own blue cheese stuffed olives. I’m also partial to scotch. And every Friday, you can get your growlers filled at Sun King Brewery for a paltry sum. I recommend the Cream Ale.

    Having written this, I now fear you will think I’m drinking too much. You’ll just have to take my word for it that I enjoy a good drink only in moderation. I bring this up, however, because of a new study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that’s giving me pause:

    BACKGROUND: Excessive alcohol consumption causes premature death (average of 79,000 deaths annually); increased disease and injury; property damage from fire and motor vehicle crashes; alcohol-related crime; and lost productivity. However, its economic cost has not been assessed for the U.S. since 1998.

    PURPOSE: To update prior national estimates of the economic costs of excessive drinking.

    METHODS: This study (conducted 2009-2010) followed U.S. Public Health Service Guidelines to assess the economic cost of excessive alcohol consumption in 2006. Costs for health care, productivity losses, and other effects (e.g., property damage) in 2006 were obtained from national databases. Alcohol-attributable fractions were obtained from multiple sources and used to assess the proportion of costs that could be attributed to excessive alcohol consumption.

    Brace yourself, because the results ain’t pretty. In 2006, the economic costs of excessive drinking in the US were $223 billion. That’s about $1.90 per drink. Another way of looking at this is that the cost was almost $750 per person in the US.

    Almost three quarters of that sum is from lost productivity. An addition 11% is due to healthcare costs and 9% is due to criminal justice costs.

    Underage drinking cost $27 billion. Binge drinking cost more than $170 billion. Drinking during pregnancy cost more than $5 billion. Alcohol-attributable crime cost more than $73 billion.

    The cost to the government was more than $94 billion, or about $0.80 per alcoholic drink. I dont’ want to pay more for alcohol, and I hate taxes as much as the next guy, but it’s hard not to see that if drinking alcohol costs the government this much (let alone society), it’s reasonable that we try to find a way to pick up the tab.

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