Alcohol’s Impact on the Economy

The Financial Realities of Excessive Drinking


According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the cost of excessive alcohol use was nearly $250 billion in 2010. In addition, almost 100,000 people die each year because of excessive drinking and over ¾ of the costs are related to binge drinking.

Research by the CDC shows that costs are around $2.05 per drink, but that was over a decade ago. Costs have likely only increased. The burden on governments at every level, federal, state, and local, is astronomical, with nearly $2 of every $5 being paid by these entities.

The cost is disproportionate across individual states, with excessive alcohol costing California an average of $35 billion to North Dakota spending an estimated $488 million. 

How Does Excessive Drinking Affect the Economy?

Costs related to excessive drinking and binge drinking are distributed between several different things. 

As noted by the CDC, many of the costs are related to:

  • Loss in workplace productivity;
  • Health care expenses;
  • Law enforcement and criminal justice expenses; and
  • Losses related to motor vehicle crashes.

States on the west coast tend to have a higher cost per person compared to those in the middle of the country and on the east coast. For example, California’s estimated cost of excessive alcohol use per person was $940 in 2010, compared to Indiana’s cost per person of $689. Similarly, Oregon’s cost per person related to excessive alcohol use was $919, compared to Iowa’s at $635.

Binge drinking is believed to be responsible for 77% of the costs associated with excessive alcohol use. The CDC estimates that 1 in 6 people binge drink. Binge drinking can cause serious short- and long-term health problems presenting a burden to the health system in the United States.

If you are unable to stop drinking or are concerned with a loved one’s excessive alcohol use, there are options for treatment. It is important to seek professional help as soon as possible.