Excess drinking and alcoholism can lead to a variety of serious health conditions, including liver disease, heart disease, certain cancers, and mental and neurological problems. But it also takes a massive toll on the U.S. economy by causing lost productivity and increased medical costs, according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The CDC report finds that alcohol-related health care costs amount to about $223.5 billion per year. A full 70 percent of those costs — or $171 billion — can be traced to binge drinking, which is defined as having more than four or five drinks in two hours.
Those costs add up for Americans, employers, and state governments alike. About 40 percent of all alcohol-related costs are paid for by the government, according to the report. There is also a wide disparity in alcohol’s public health costs throughout the states. For instance, Iowa spends about $622 per person because of excess drinking, whereas the District of Columbia has the highest associated costs at $1,662 per person — and those are just conservative estimates.
“It is striking to see most of the costs of excessive drinking in states and DC are due to binge drinking, which is reported by about 18 percent of U.S. adults,” wrote report author Dr. Robert Brewer. Lost productivity due to binge drinking is estimated to make up 82 percent of its associated costs in DC.
There have been several recent studies concerning Americans’ alcohol abuse. In June, a report published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that 40 percent of designated drivers have had at least one drink. Nearly 20 percent drink enough to actually impair their driving ability.
Public health advocates are conflicted on the proper way to address the root problem — but some have proposed policies to mitigate its potentially deadly consequences, such as drunk driving. In May, a federal safety board proposed dropping the acceptable Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) for drivers from 0.08 to 0.05.