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CDC Report: Binge Drinking a Budget-Buster for States

PHOTO: The CDC estimates the costs associated with excessive drinking topped $4.1 billion in Maryland in a single year, 2006. Photo credit: Microsoft Images
PHOTO: The CDC estimates the costs associated with excessive drinking topped $4.1 billion in Maryland in a single year, 2006. Photo credit: Microsoft Images
August 14, 2013

ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Excessive alcohol use puts a huge economic burden on states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - from crimes committed by people who are drunk to health problems and lost work productivity associated with binge drinking.

In Maryland, Dr. Robert Brewer, the CDCs alcohol program leader, estimated the cost at more than $4 billion in 2006 alone - or almost $2 per drink consumed in the state.

"What I think is also very important to recognize is that a large chunk of those costs are paid for by government," he said. "In the case of Maryland, it was on the order of about 44 percent."

Raising the cost of alcohol could be one way to curb the problem, Brewer said, although in many states, raising liquor taxes prompts opponents to compare lawmakers' efforts to Prohibition.

Brewer said the CDC is investigating excessive alcohol use as a major public health issue, adding that many people don't realize it isn't just the heavy drinker who suffers.

"We're talking about costs at the state level that are of the same order of magnitude as the cost of smoking - and in many states, the same order of magnitude of the cost of Medicaid," he said. "This is a huge burden for society."

The report defines binge drinking as consuming five or more drinks on an occasion for men, or four or more drinks for women.

The report is online at ajpmonline.org.

Alison Burns, Public News Service - MD