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CDC study looks at financial & societal costs of alcohol abuse

Although prohibition in America was ultimately a failed experiment, there is a reason that so many people joined the temperance movement and demanded that alcohol be outlawed. Alcohol can cause a lot of personal and public problems, especially when abused.

According to a new study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the financial costs associated with binge drinking are staggering (no pun intended). In 2006 alone, the CDC estimates, binge drinking cost the United States $223.5 billion. This amounts to a median cost to each state of about $2.9 billion.

To arrive at this total, the CDC looked at the alcohol-abuse-related effects on things like property damage, lost productivity and criminal justice expenses. To victims of alcohol-related crimes - including drunk driving accidents, assaults and homicides - the costs include much more than just money.

Commenting on the study results, the director of the CDC noted that “Excessive alcohol use has devastating impacts on individuals, families, communities and the economy. Effective prevention programs can support people in making wise choices about drinking alcohol.”

It should be noted that the CDC and other health organizations are not calling for alcohol to be outlawed once again; nor would that even be an effective solution to the problem (as we learned the first time prohibition was tried). Instead, the report is likely meant to remind us that alcohol abuse has many costs beyond what you pay at the bar or liquor store.

If more Americans examined their own relationship to alcohol and vowed to drink more responsibly, how much money could be saved? More importantly, how many crimes, premature deaths and other steep consequences could be prevented?

Source: Modern Healthcare, "Annual cost of excessive drinking $223.5B, CDC says," Steven Ross Johnson, Aug. 13, 2013 

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