A man has collected a large number of beer bottles before him on the kitchen countertop.
Binge drinking is expensive for you and me. (Photo Credit: CC By-SA/Jes/Flickr)

Binge drinking costs each and every American about $2 per drink, according to new research findings from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s beyond the cost of the drinks themselves. Lost work productivity, property damage, medical problems and the cost of incarcerating drunk drivers and perpetrators of other alcohol-related crimes are all factors contributing to the runaway cost that society shoulders.

The meaning of binge drinking

As defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, binge drinking is a pattern of alcoholic beverage consumption that results in the elevation of the drinker’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 percent or higher. For most people, this occurs when adult males consume five or more alcoholic drinks and when adult females consume four or more alcoholic drinks within two hours. Binge drinking does not include moderate habits such as a glass of wine each day, which the CDC notes has been associated with some health benefits.

Binge drinking, binge spending

According to the CDC study, which published Oct. 17 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, binge drinking (aka excessive drinking or heavy drinking) cost the U.S. $224 billion in 2006, the most recent year for which statistics are available. That was $1.90 per drink. Of that amount, researchers estimate that 80 cents were spent by federal, state or local government. The remainder was paid by the drinkers themselves, their families, private insurers, employers, victims of alcohol-inspired crimes and others.

“Binge drinking results in binge spending,” CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden told the Associated Press.

Drinking and smoking

The cost of a habit commonly associated with drinking – smoking – is also high. According to the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, smoking costs society about $193 billion each year. Public and private health care spend $96 billion annually, $30.9 billion of which is paid out in smoking-caused Medicaid distributions. Second-hand smoke exposure translates into $4.98 billion in health care expenditure.

On the work front, smoking-related health problems that cause productivity to fall amount to $97 billion in annual costs.

Alcohol marketing and binge drinking


American Journal of Preventive Medicine (abstract – registration required): http://bit.ly/qISjUX

Associated Press: http://www.ajc.com/health/cdc-add-2-per-1203158.html

Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids: http://www.tobaccofreekids.org/research/factsheets/pdf/0072.pdf

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism: www.niaaa.nih.gov

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