Study Outlines the Economic Costs of Alcohol Abuse

kidWe all know the terrible effects that alcohol abuse and addiction have on individuals, families, friends, and communities. Just a few examples that we can see all around us are the broken relationships, broken families, broken friendships and broken jobs that alcoholism creates all around us. You could also say there that there is a high cost in broken hearts and broken lives.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month, where all of us who know about the harm that alcohol abuse and addiction causes should be spreading the word to the four corners of the world. It may seem like a never-ending battle at times, but we must never stop getting the information out about the dangers of alcohol abuse.

The Cost of Abuse

Some people might wonder what the effects of alcoholism on society actually are. What is the actual financial and economic cost of alcohol abuse and addiction? How much money is flushed down the drain in lost work hours, medical and rehab costs, wasted family income, and DUI accidents? The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) attempted to quantify numbers for this lost money. In 1990, they sponsored a study called, “Economic Costs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: 1985.”

What they tried to do was to look at economic and public health information, and try to come up with some numbers to show how much was being lost on drug abuse, alcohol abuse and mental illness. The actual numbers were somewhat mind-boggling: $218.1 billion for the economic losses that year as a result of drug and alcohol abuse, and mental illness.

Drug use and alcohol abuse together made up 52% of the total, a figure that comes to $113.41 billion. With inflation factored in, this figure comes out as $246.55 billion! In comparison, major corporations like Apple and General Motors had revenue of just over $150 billion last year, as opposed to 1985, when the study was done. So more money was wasted on the effects of alcohol and substance abuse than some of our large international corporations bring in, in a year!

Where, Exactly, did That Money Go

So where, exactly, did that money go? Part of it, of course, was used to help those people suffering from addiction, for their treatment, rehab, counseling, etc. Part of it went to direct medical costs, like when someone goes into the emergency room with alcohol poisoning or when someone gets treated for a liver chewed up by alcohol abuse.

Then there are the costs related to drunk driving accidents: personal injuries to the driver and to victims in other cars, the cost of auto repairs, and legal and court costs. Oh, and the cost of an autopsy, if a death occurred in the accident. Plus, funeral homes, burial costs, or cost of cremation all add up.

Other costs are the amount of money wasted in lost productivity in the workplace, from money not made, that could have supported the abuser’s family. When a person is drunk on the job, they can’t be making good decisions – more money lost.

Medical insurance premiums are in the news these days. One of the other expenses is the rising costs for those premiums – and they include the cost of payments for Employee Aid Programs, for counseling and treatment.

Once again, April is Alcohol Awareness Month, so let’s try and prevent some of these losses from occurring. Let’s talk to our loved ones, let’s make sure our kids are well educated about the dangers of alcohol and drugs. Let’s survive better together!


NIDA: Economic Costs of Alcohol and Drug Abuse and Mental Illness: 1985