Head-Turning Facts About the Costs of Alcohol Abuse

  • Excessive use of alcohol is a worldwide problem
  • The dollar cost to the United States in 2010 was $249 billion
  • A CDC 2015 report states alcohol poisoning is responsible for six deaths every day in the U.S.

April is National Alcohol Awareness Month. But excessive alcohol consumption affects both the larger world of which America is a part and every state that makes up our nation.

Five facts that put the scope of alcohol abuse into perspective

  1. Alcohol is a major GLOBAL contributor to the burdens imposed by other diseases:Worldwide, alcohol make up from 4% to about 25% of the disease burden due to cancers, and around 10% of the disease burden due to tuberculosis, epilepsy, hemorrhagic stroke and high blood pressure.
  1. Excessive alcohol consumption is a costly AMERICAN problem: The economic cost of excessive alcohol consumption to the United States is in the billions of dollars: It was $249 Billion in 2010. For reference the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2010 was $14,582 Trillion. That means excessive alcohol consumption cost the United States about 1.7% of this country’s GDP. That’s more than the entire utilities industry contributed to GDP in 2016.
  1. Excessive drinking is a costly CALIFORNIAN problem: The economic cost in California in 2010 was $35 billion, which was the most in the entire United States. California’s 2010 GDP was $1.8 trillion. The economic cost to the state of California was about 1.9% of their GDP in 2010. The economic cost per capita in California was $940 in 2010.
  1. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism is a nationwide HEALTH problem: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has an entire separate institute for alcohol abuse, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), which is dedicated to providing leadership to decrease alcohol-related problems.
  1. Alcohol and its abuse continues to contribute to the death of tens of thousands of Americans each year.
    • As of January 2015, the CDC announced that an average of six people die of alcohol poisoning every day in the United States.
    • CDC’s Alcohol-Related Disease Impact Application (ARDI) estimated an annual average of 88,000 alcohol-related deaths from 2006-2010.
    • According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD), an intoxicated driver or pedestrian is involved in around 32% of fatal car crashes.


Alcohol abuse is only one step removed from alcoholism (increasingly called alcohol use disorder). The NCADD states, “One in every 12 adults in the United States suffers from alcohol abuse…”

The CDC says, “Alcohol poisoning is caused by drinking large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time;” and the life-threatening amount depends on the person’s age, health, and other variables. “Very high levels of alcohol in the body can shut down critical areas of the brain that control breathing, heart rate, and body temperature,” resulting in death.

Alcoholism is the previous name for what is now called alcohol use disorder (AUD) by the NIAAA. The NIAA defines it as characterized by compulsivealcohol consumption, a “loss of control over alcohol intake, and a negative emotional state” when not drinking.

Excessive Alcohol Use includes binge drinking, which is five or more drinks on a single occasion for men or four or more drinks on a single occasion for women. - CDC. People who binge drink often aren’t recognized as having a drinking problem.

Heavy Drinking is 15 drinks or more per week for men and eight drinks or more per week for women. - CDC

Economic Cost is a calculation taking in the “losses in workplace productivity (72% of the total cost), health care expenses (11%), and other costs due to a combination of criminal justice expenses, motor vehicle crash costs, and property damage.” - CDC

Moderate Drinking according to the NIAAA “is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men.”

Excessive alcohol use can lead to a host of avoidable chronic diseases and other impairments

The NCADD lists the following health and social problems from long-term excessive alcohol consumption:

  • Dementia, stroke, and neuropathy
  • Cardiovascular problems, including myocardial infarction, cardiomyopathy, atrial fibrillation, and hypertension
  • Psychiatric problems, including depression, anxiety, and suicide
  • Social problems, including unemployment, lost productivity, family problems, violence including child maltreatment, fights, and homicide
  • Unintentional injuries, such as motor-vehicle traffic crashes, falls, drowning, burns and firearm injuries
  • Increased risk for many kinds of cancers, including liver, mouth, throat, larynx (voice box) and esophagus
  • Liver diseases, including fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, cirrhosis
  • Gastrointestinal problems, including pancreatitis and gastritis
  • Alcohol abuse or dependence – alcoholism.

Should you quit drinking?

The NCADD has an online Am I Alcoholic Self-Test that can help you understand your alcohol use and the associated health risks.

But there’s one question in particular that should raise a red flag: Have you had an early morning drink to calm yourself down? Answering yes to that one is an indicator of advanced alcoholism, because casual drinking in the morning is not normal.

Too many people lose themselves, their health, their jobs, or their loved ones because of alcohol. Learn how to help a loved one find – and get through - addiction treatment.

St. Joseph Hoag Health offers quality mental health and wellness programs, including inpatient and outpatient treatment for alcoholism and addiction, at Hoag Newport Beach and Hoag Irvine, Mission Hospital, Laguna Beach, and St. Joseph Hospital, Orange.