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Excessive drinking costs the U.S. $223.5 billion

The costs of drinking alcohol on the states are expensive. The costs of binge drinking are really expensive. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) looking at data from 2006 has determined that excessive drinking of alcohol costs the U.S. $223.5 billion. Excessive drinking costs Hawaii alone $821.5 million, with 40 percent of that cost being covered by the government and ultimately, by taxpayers.

The consequences of excessive alcohol drinking, from drunk driving and car accidents to the need for extra police patrols on Saturday nights and more police calls to bars are only the most deadly and highest visibility elements. Additional costs caused by excessive alcohol use range from greater absenteeism and lower productivity from workers who have over-indulged the night before to the long-term health effects of alcohol use.

The CDC engaged in the study of the costs at the state level to assess the significant costs borne by the state and local governments, such as additional operational costs for law enforcement to deal with drunk driving crashes and the courts necessary for the criminal prosecution of the criminal element of a drunk driving arrest.

Government also has to cover the expense of operating the civil courts for adjudicating the negligence cases when there are injuries or fatalities resulting from drunk driving accidents.

Studies like this provide the arguments for developing new strategies at the state level for addressing the problems of excessive alcohol use.

Clearly, 30 years of aggressive prosecution of drunken driving has had some beneficial effect, but additional suggestions include increasing dram shop liability, or increasing the taxes on alcohol could be used to limit excessive alcohol use and the damage it leaves in its wake.

Source: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, "State Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption, 2006," Sacks, Roeber, Bouchery, Gonzales, Chaloupka, and Brewer, August 13, 2013

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