The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that excessive alcohol use cost the United States $249 billion in 2010, a significant increase from $223.5 billion in 2006. The results of this cost component analysis have been published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

In this study, excessive alcohol consumption was defined as binge drinking (four or more drinks per occasion for women; five or more drinks per occasion for men); heavy drinking (more than eight drinks per week for women; and ≥15 drinks per week for men); any alcohol consumption by youth aged <21 years; and any alcohol consumption by pregnant women. Alcohol-attributable fractions from studies were used to evaluate the proportion of 26 costs that could be attributed to excessive drinking. Costs to the government and costs due to binge drinking, underage drinking, and drinking during pregnancy were calculated nationally and for individual states.

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The national cost of excessive alcohol consumption was identified as $249 billion in 2010, or about $2.05 per drink or $807 per person. Lost productivity drove 71.9% of the costs, healthcare 11.4%, and 16.7% for other. The median state cost was $3.5 billion and ranged from $35 billion in California to $488 million in North Dakota. This is up from $223.5 billion in 2006, despite the severe economic recession from late 2007 to mid-2009. Excessive alcohol consumption is also linked to about 88,000 deaths per year, including one in 10 deaths among working-age adults aged 20–64 in the US.

Robert Brewer, MD, MSPH. head of CDC’s Alcohol Program and one of the study’s authors, noted that “effective prevention strategies can reduce excessive drinking and related costs in states and communities, but they are under used.”

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