Alcohol and The Economic Impact
Twenty-six episodes of ‘The A-Files’ will run throughout Alcohol Awareness Month on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Alcohologist.com and AddictedMinds.com, among other web and social media sites. Episode E explores the economic impact of drinking moderately or alcoholically. Alcohol use costs the U.S. $250 billion, every single year. (All drinking, not just the disease of alcoholism.) That’s enough to buy a 48 inch HDTV for every man, woman and child in the U.S. The costs are in healthcare, lost productivity, legal and corrections costs. Alcoholism is part of the total, but $250 billion is driven by all drinking, even social or moderate use.
The monetary consequences are something everyone shares: Drinkers and non-drinkers alike. The numbers get complicated, because the drug Americans enjoy and defend so vigorously, also costs the most in health and hard dollars. Each drink consumed has a median cost of $1.91 in economic harm (lost productivity, health care costs, property damage and criminal justice system expenses). That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). So the drinker pays for that in alcohol tax, right? No. The median paid in tax per drink is less than a quarter.
Even if drinkers bore the full $1.91, everyone else still pays in lost productivity. Show up late, never, hungover or just without your A-game and someone has to step in or step up. It doesn’t always happen that way. Which costs the company. So the company charges more for its goods or services. Lost productivity, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is more than 70 percent of the $250 billion annual cost of alcohol use in the United States. We all pay… no matter if we shop Walmart or Macy’s.
Here’s another way to look at the economic harm. There is an alcohol-related hospital admission every 30 seconds and, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) 20-40 percent of general use (non-specialty) hospital beds are used to tend to alcohol-related complications. Heroin addicts aren’t breaking the healthcare system. Aging Baby Boomers aren’t pushing it past capacity. Alcohol use is drowning it.
To drive down healthcare costs and improve access, reduce what is driving illness overall. We can’t hope for better access to healthcare, cheaper premiums and lower taxes if we do not help people from drinking themselves into the system. What causes problems, is one.