US Spends Over $170 Billion on Binge Drinking Every Year

Author’s Note: Title has been changed to reflect a correction made to this article. Originally the title stated that $1.7 billion of government funds are spent on binge drinking every year. The actual number is $171 billion.

I feel dirty linking to Think Progress, but I had no idea that binge drinking has such a huge fiscal toll on the US government. Not surprisingly, the cost comes from medical issues associated with binge drinking and hospitalizations. As for the latter, if said ER patient is uninsured then the cost is passed on to the hospital, then the state government, and then…. Well, you get the idea.

The CDC report finds that alcohol-related health care costs amount to about $223.5 billion per year. A full 70 percent of those costs — or $171 billion — can be traced to binge drinking, which is defined as having more than four or five drinks in two hours.


Those costs add up for Americans, employers, and state governments alike. About 40 percent of all alcohol-related costs are paid for by the government, according to the report. …


… “It is striking to see most of the costs of excessive drinking in states and DC are due to binge drinking, which is reported by about 18 percent of U.S. adults,”wrote report author Dr. Robert Brewer. Lost productivity due to binge drinking is estimated to make up 82 percent of its associated costs in DC.

So that’s why Congress can’t get anything done! Moving along, the article itself does not provide any suggestions for a solution, but does mention the following:

Public health advocates are conflicted on the proper way to address the root problem — but some have proposed policies to mitigate its potentially deadly consequences, such as drunk driving. In May, a federal safety board proposed dropping the acceptable Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) for drivers from 0.08 to 0.05.

Needless to say, lowering the acceptable BAC level can only do so much — there aren’t enough check points out there to catch every drunk driver. But the more curious question is what this says about the nation at large. Why are so many people driven to drink so heavily? Well… reach your own conclusions.