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Article Summary

The Cost Of Alcohol Abuse On Society

Since alcohol happens to be the most commonly used intoxicating and mind-altering substance in the United States, you might want to read about the cost of alcohol abuse on society.

Today, the consumption of alcohol is variously linked to higher risks of accidents and injuries. In fact, even engaging in one episode of binge drinking or excessive drinking is highly likely to lead to negative outcomes.

Additionally, the cost of alcohol abuse on society also revolves around the chronic use of the substance as well as alcoholism. In particular, these forms of substance abuse are closely associated with many family, social, psychiatric, and medical problems.

The family members of alcoholics and binge drinkers - including their children - are also exposed to the alcohol problem and face higher risks of suffering unique problems of their own.

In the case of children with parents who are addicted to alcohol, for instance, studies show that they might have a higher risk of developing alcoholism. This is in comparison to children whose parents do not partake of alcohol.

In the long run, it is vital that social workers, psychologists, doctors, and other stakeholders understand the cost of alcohol abuse on society.

Understanding The Social Effects Of Alcohol Abuse

The real impact of substance abuse involving alcohol reaches over and beyond the initial financial costs of the problem. If you have a loved one struggling with alcohol abuse, it is highly likely that the problem might affect their marriage, family, extended family, social life, performance at work and school, the community, and the society at large.

Today, statistics show that around 14 million Americans meet the basic criteria for a severe alcohol use disorder. Further, alcohol is linked to over 88000 deaths on an annual basis.

However, it isn't just the people who are addicted to alcohol that are affected. Additional studies have also shown that over 75% of the entire cost of consuming alcohol excessively in the country is linked to binge drinking - even though some binge drinkers might not be dependent on and addicted to alcohol.

But exactly how does alcohol abuse impact individuals, families, communities, and the society? Essentially, the cost of alcohol abuse on society revolves around its role in college campus and high school assaults, domestic and sexual violence, as well reduced productivity in the workplace and in the form of financial costs to the country.

Today, many Americans consume different types of alcoholic beverages in a variety of cultural and social settings. In particular, they drink on certain occasions with relatives, colleagues, and friends - a rather pleasant and enjoyable way to socialize and celebrate major events and festivals. However, far too many people end up engaging in this activity recklessly and excessively. When this happens, they contribute to the cost of alcohol abuse on society.

What Is Alcohol?

Alcohol is the common name for ethanol. The substance is considered suitable for human consumption - unlike methanol that is toxic and dangerous. Over the course of human history, a variety of alcoholic beverages have been made from honey, fruit juice, and fermented grain.

In fact, there is evidence that the Chinese used to imbibe alcohol as early as 7000 BC while the Babylonians had a wine goddess by around 2700 BC. However, the first instance of excessive drinking was in Ancient Greek literature - which warned against engaging in the excessive consumption of alcohol.

Apart from the above, many Roman nobles, emperors, and their consorts have been recorded as gaining infamy for their decadent behaviors - most of which revolved around excessive drinking.

Costs Of Alcohol Abuse On Society

Today, alcohol abuse has a variety of social costs on families, workplaces, communities, the healthcare system, as well as the nation.

1. On Families

Even though many Americans engage in the consumption of alcohol because it improves their mood and makes them feel a bit better about their lives, when they drink excessively, they are highly likely to impact their personalities in negative ways.

In the process, this form of alcohol abuse may affect your family in a variety of ways, such as:

a) On Couples

In particular, abusing alcohol can leave a negative impact on your relationship in the following ways:

  • Couples exhibit violent behaviors that are linked to alcohol
  • Girlfriends and wives of alcoholics are usually subjected to different forms of abuse related to the abuse of alcohol
  • Research has shown that a marriage in which one spouse abuses alcohol has a 50% risk of ending in divorce

b) On Children

Alcohol abuse also has a number of negative effects on children.

  • Children with alcoholic parents often end up having deep-seated emotional and psychological problems as a result of growing up in an environment with addicted parents
  • Children with an alcoholic parent have a higher risk of developing a variety of emotional problems like insecurities, fear, ambivalence, confusion, shame, guilt, and mistrust
  • Research data shows that as few as 12% and as much as 70% of all adults who engage in child abuse are alcoholics
  • The children of alcoholics are 3 to 4 times as likely as their peers to eventually develop an addiction to alcohol or any other intoxicating and mind-altering substance later on in their lives
  • When parents abuse alcohol, they may lead their children to develop socialization problems; for instance, they might have difficulties forming new friendships because of their rooted embarrassment; they may also be afraid to invite their peers to the home because they are not sure how their addicted parents will act

c) Partner Violence

Problematic alcohol use and anger have been defined as some of the individual risk factors for perpetration, victimization, and IPV (or intimate partner violence). According to a recent research study, 215 couples in the Southeast and Midwest US were observed to analyze mutual patterns of violent behavior.

The participants had to be healthy and without any major psychiatric diagnosis or medical problem. They were also required to not be enrolled in active treatment for relationship-related or psychological problems. Additionally, one or both of the partners in a relationship was required to consume at least 4 (for women) or 5 (for men) standard alcoholic beverages at least twice every month.

At the end of the observation, the study did not discover any mean differences across the genders for physical IPV perpetration or trait anger. However, the study did find significant differences across the sexes for problematic alcohol use and IPV victimization. In particular, the men tended to experience greater IPV victimization when they reported that they had a problem with alcohol.

According to the study, it is clear that problematic drinking patterns and anger play different albeit essential roles for both women and men in relationships that are mutually violent.

2. On College Campuses

In the past few years, sexual assaults on college campuses linked to alcohol abuse have been attracting the attention of the media and the general public at large. Every year, it is estimated that about 696,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 get assaulted by other students who have been drinking. Additionally, studies show that as many as 97,000 students in the same age group experience date rape or sexual assault related to alcohol.

3. On Society

To better understand the problem of alcohol abuse and its costs on society, consider the statistics listed below:

  • 1 out of every 4 students in college report suffering academic consequences as a result of consuming alcohol, including falling behind in their studies, missing classes, performing poorly in exams, and receiving low grades
  • Close to 20% of all college students in the United States meet the basic criteria for an alcohol use disorder or alcoholism
  • In 2014, it was estimated that as many as 679,000 teens between the ages of 12 and 17 had an alcohol use disorder
  • More than 1/3 of all the adults in the country have an active AUD (or an alcohol use disorder) at one point or the other in their lives
  • More than 17 million American adults are currently suffering as a result of an alcohol use disorder
  • Of all the Americans who could be clinically diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, only about 20 percent receive the treatment and rehabilitation they need to overcome their affliction
  • On an annual basis, close to 1,825 students between the ages of 18 to 24 incur unintentional fatal injuries (including but not limited to motor vehicle crashes) related to alcohol abuse
  • Over 88,000 people lose their lives as a result of causes related to alcohol on an annual basis in the United States
  • Several million Americans engage in risky patterns of binge drinking that eventually lead to problems with alcohol addiction and dependence

However, these problems are not the only ones that define the cost of alcohol abuse on society. In fact, the social repercussions of drinking excessively tend to be more far-reaching than this. In many cases, in fact, they can turn out to be tragic and lead to death.

Today, millions of American adults are suffering from an alcohol use disorder while others simply abuse alcoholic beverages thinking that no harm will befall them or others as a result. Even so, millions more continue engaging in risky patterns of binge drinking - which often lead to problems with alcohol.

4. Violence And Crime

According to different research studies, there are strong connections between domestic violence, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism. This is mainly in cases where the violence is directed at women.

However, some people doubt whether drinking alcohol can make them violent. Even so, statistics have been consistent in showing that most of the people who end up engaging in domestic violence against their loved ones tend to be drunk. As such, it becomes next to impossible to separate the behaviors that drinking can cause and those that might be inherent in the individual.

Nevertheless, most of domestic violence victims have indicated that excessive drinking was one of the factors that contributed to the perpetrator committing the act of violence.

But what are the total numbers of violent crimes and handgun crimes related to alcohol abuse? How many murders every year are linked to alcohol abuse? Consider the numbers below:

  • About 75% of all the people who are arrested in large cities for committing felonies end up testing positive for alcohol and other illicit drugs
  • Among the men who were arrested for committing serious crimes, 53% to 79% ended up testing positive for alcohol and other illegal drugs
  • As much as 36% of all victims of suicide were drinking before they committed the acts
  • Fathers who are alcoholics are 10 times as likely as those who are not to commit child abuse
  • Heavy drinking is linked to 80% of all drowning and fire accidents, 30% of all suicides, and 60% of all other violent crimes
  • It is estimated that 23,200 murders in 1990 were linked to alcohol abuse
  • More than 50% of all rapists were intoxicated when they perpetrated their sexual crimes
  • Mothers who are convicted for child abuse are 3 times as likely as those who are not to be alcoholics
  • Of all the murders that occur in the United States, at least 34 percent of the cases involved the use of alcohol
  • The suicide rates for alcoholics is 30 times more than that of people in the general American population

5. Drunk Driving

The NHTSA (or the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) reports that accidents related to alcohol abuse are among the leading causes of death among young adults and teens alike. In 2009, for instance, the Administration said that close to 11,000 Americans lost their lives in automobile accidents related to alcohol use.

This shows that drunk drivers are a severe threat to American society - although the youth are particularly at risk. Since most of those who are convicted for DUI offenses admit that they were driving while drunk many times before they were apprehended by law enforcement, it goes to show just how severe the problem really is.

These issues are complicated further by the fact that intoxicated teens are, in many cases, responsible for causing automobile accidents. In the long run, they also contribute to the deaths of many innocent motorists and pedestrians - which ends up costing the society many valuable lives.

Every year, the number of fatalities and accidents on American roads related to the use of alcohol include:

  • 65 Americans lose their lives on a daily basis on our highways as a result of alcohol-related accidents and injuries
  • Accidents related to alcohol abuse are among the leading causes of death among the young
  • Alcohol-impaired drivers cause damages that are the equivalent of Boeing 747s carrying more than 500 passengers crashing after every 8 days and killing everyone on board
  • At any given minute, at least 1 in every 50 drivers is intoxicated on alcohol
  • Crashes related to alcohol abuse kill someone in the country every 22 minutes
  • Drunk drivers cause at least 50% of all highway fatalities
  • Every weekend night, 1 out of every 10 drivers is usually drunk
  • The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports that every year the country loses 105,000 lives due to drunken driving and other alcohol-related diseases and injuries

6. On Sports

Our society is deeply rooted and connected to sports. However, sporting events are also linked to the use of alcohol. In particular, the fans of various sports tend to binge drink whenever there are sporting events involving their favorite teams. In the process, they increase their risk of causing disruptions and violent altercations. In the same way, alcohol is usually served at sporting events and sports arenas - sometimes even to underage drinkers and those who are already intoxicated.

All these problems end up causing both athletes and their fans to suffer from alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorders as a result of their favorite sports. This is because many believe that both losing and winning are good enough reasons to drink excessively.

7. On Public Health

While reviewing the cost of alcohol abuse on society, it is also important to look at its burden on the public health system. Today, the excessive use of alcoholic beverages is associated with domestic violence. Even so, it has permeated television, movies, and the mass media, as well as sports. In the process, alcohol has been killing and poisoning many people in the country - making it a crucial public health concern.

Every year, the high cost of domestic violence and crime linked with alcohol abuse as well as the rising numbers of traffic fatalities and accidents related to excessive drinking cost American society billions of dollars. When you add the millions of Americans who are addicted to and dependent on alcohol, you can see that the numbers continue escalating on an annual basis.

Today, the country continue spending dearly on resources like substance abuse treatment and rehabilitation programs. Additionally, alcohol costs us many lives that are permanently affected by or ultimately lost to the disease.

While reviewing the impact of alcohol on American public health, it is also good to find out the annual cost of the problem on the health insurance industry. Consider the numbers below:

  • 2.9% of all 1000 live births end up with fetal alcohol syndromes
  • A single baby born with FAS (or Fetal Alcohol Syndrome) costs more than $405,000 from birth till they get to 65 years in terms of direct special and medical services
  • According to the ONDCP (or the Office of National Drug Control Policy), it is estimated that at least 100,000 babies are exposed to drugs like alcohol
  • Alcohol use cost the country at least $15 billion in 1983 in terms of treatment and healthcare
  • More than 375,000 of all babies born on an annual basis are prenatally exposed to illicit drugs and alcohol
  • More than 75% of all child deaths are linked to alcoholic parents
  • Newborns of alcoholics and substance abusers have a higher risk of contracting HIV than IV drug users and people in the LGBTQ+ community
  • Over 1,000 babies are born daily with a drug or alcohol-related problem
  • Over 50% of all confirmed reports of child abuse involve parents who were abusing alcohol
  • The country spends more than half a billion dollars every year in the treatment of F.A.E. and F.A.S.
  • The financial costs of the drug habit in America is anywhere between $50 and $100 billion every year

8. On The Economy

The CDC has reported that the cost of alcohol abuse on society exceeds the $200 billion mark on an annual basis. Over 70% of this amount is linked to binge drinking - where men drink more than 5 alcoholic beverages, and women imbibe more than 5 alcoholic drinks in a single occasion.

Further, the CDC has estimated that about 40% of all the costs linked to the excessive consumption of alcohol ends up being taken care of by local, state, and federal governments in the United States.

Most of this money goes towards different expenses. However, the most significant chunk is lost to the dwindling workplace productivity of alcoholics and alcohol abusers. Other top costs related to alcohol abuse include:

  • Crime
  • Healthcare costs
  • Law enforcement
  • Motor vehicle crashes

The body has also stated that most of these figures tend to be estimated. This is because the involvement of alcohol abuse in death, injury, and sickness is not always reported or available to researchers and other experts. In fact, these numbers do not always include some of the mental health and medical conditions that result from the abuse of alcohol.

Additionally, they might also not include the work days that some family members have to miss as a result of taking care of the problems caused by their alcoholic loved ones.

Even so, alcohol abuse, dependence, and addiction claim more than 100,000 American lives on an annual basis. Still, this is not the only cost of alcohol to society. In fact, the excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages has taken its toll and cost US taxpayers, governments, the industries more than $249 billion every year.

All told, the average societal cost of alcohol abuse to individuals is about $807 for every citizen. In rough numbers, this is about $2 for every alcoholic beverage available on the market.

As you can see, both individual taxpayers and the government have to bear the burden of the alcohol abuse problem in the country. In fact, $2 out of every $5 of these estimated costs - or about $100 billion - is catered for by state, local, and federal governments. Additionally, 75% of the costs (about $191 billion) was directly linked to binge drinking.

On the other hand, the consumption of alcohol by those who are underage represents close to $24 billion of the cost of alcohol abuse on society while women who drink during pregnancy end up costing society an additional $5 billion.

Researchers have also reported that the costs of alcohol abuse are also linked to loss in workplace and professional productivity. This is followed by the indirect and direct costs of alcoholism to the American healthcare system.

Consider the following numbers:

  • 10% of the costs are linked to expenses in the criminal justice system
  • 11% of these costs are related to a variety of healthcare expenses, including but not limited to the treatment of liver cancer and cirrhosis, pediatric care associated with alcohol, alcohol abuse and addiction treatment, hospitalization, and emergency care
  • 5% of these costs are connected to traffic and motor car crashes and accidents, including all related insurance costs
  • 75% of the costs of alcohol abuse on society are attributed to unemployment expenses, Social Security disability, worker compensation, and workplace absenteeism

The cost to human life of the excessive consumption of alcohol has been well documented. In fact, the United States loses close to 79,000 human lives every year as a result alcohol abuse.

Although such unwarranted loss of life may be terrible, the real cost that American society pays could be greater in the long run. This is because alcohol abuse often leads to property damage, lost productivity, escalating health care costs, and more.

In fact, a 2011 American Journal of Preventive Medicine study, used information from national databases to come up with estimates of some of the economic costs of alcoholism, alcohol use disorders, and alcohol abuse to the country.

From the study, the researchers discovered that:

  • In 2006, it is estimated that the overall economic costs of alcohol abuse was about $223.5 billion; this figure, in real terms this figure is equal to an approximate of $1.90 for every alcoholic drink that is consumed
  • Of the $223 billion figure, about 72.2% (which equals $161 billion) resulted from lost productivity while 11.0% (or $24 billion) was linked to health care costs; lastly, 9.4% (about $21 billion) came from the cost of alcohol abuse to the criminal justice system
  • Binge drinking cost about $170.7 billion (or 76.4% of the full amount)
  • Underage drinking cost around $27 billion
  • Drinking alcohol during pregnancy cost $5.2 billion.
  • The cost of criminal activities attributed to alcohol was around $73.3 billion, and included corrections expenditures (about 17.2%) and crash-related costs as a result of DUIs (43.8%)
  • The cost of binge drinking and excessive drinking to government was around $94.2 billion (or 42.1% of the total cost of alcohol abuse). This number equaled about $0.80 for every alcoholic drink that was consumed by an American in 2006
  • Local, state, and federal government revenues from the excise taxes imposed on alcoholic beverages only totaled around $14.6 billion the same year; these revenues were only adequate to cover around 15% of the total economic costs of alcohol abuse to government

9. Additional Costs

Last but not least, the cost of alcohol abuse on society also involves:

  • Comorbidity
  • Criminal justice costs
  • Domestic violence
  • Financial problems
  • Healthcare costs
  • Hospital visits
  • Inappropriate sexual behaviors
  • Job loss
  • Law enforcement costs
  • Loss in workplace productivity
  • Marital breakup
  • Poverty
  • Schizophrenia
  • Social phobia
  • Spouse abuse
  • Substantial mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and fear
  • Traffic accidents
  • Unemployment
  • Unintentional injuries
  • Unpaid bills
  • Violence
  • Work accidents
  • Workplace absences

Reducing The Cost Of Alcohol Abuse On Society

According to the CDC and many other research organizations, it is possible to reduce all these costs or eliminate them altogether. The best strategy would involve reducing the binge drinking and excessive drinking problem that is plaguing the country.

Researchers, to this end, have suggested that the country has use a variety of evidence-based strategies to effectively reduce the negative impact of alcohol abuse on American society. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Avoiding the over-commercialization of alcohol sales, particularly those that are controlled by states
  • Holding everyone who sells alcohol in retail or wholesale responsible and legally liable for the damages and injuries caused by underage and intoxicated customers
  • Increasing the average price of every alcoholic beverage; this could discourage more Americans from drinking - especially those who are young and at great risk of adding to the cost of alcoholism to society
  • Reducing the hours and days of legally permitted alcohol sales
  • Regulating the location and number of sites that sell alcohol

Although most of these suggestions are likely to meet great opposition both from industry and government agencies, they still highlight the fact that ease of access and relatively low cost are among the main drivers of the alcohol abuse and alcohol use disorder epidemic that is making the country suffer. To this end, unless the United States starts taking positive measures to actively discourage people from drinking, it is highly likely that society will continue paying.

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