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Cost of Binge Drinking in Iowa Nearly $2 Billion Annually

PHOTO: The costs associated with excessive alcohol use in Iowa are nearly $2-billion a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CREDIT: Brian Rosner
PHOTO: The costs associated with excessive alcohol use in Iowa are nearly $2-billion a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CREDIT: Brian Rosner
December 2, 2013

DES MOINES, Iowa - The holidays are a time of celebrating, and often that includes the consumption of alcohol, but those who don't enjoy it in moderation are not only affecting themselves but also putting a big burden on society.

According to prevention consultant Julie Hibben at the Iowa Department of Health, binge drinking has many adverse consequences, including immediate health difficulties.

"Then there's also some chronic conditions that can happen to folks if they've been binge drinking for a period of time," she pointed out. "Also, there are justice issues that happen when people are binge drinking, as well as productivity when it comes to work. So there are a lot of issues that we need to look at, when it comes to addressing binge drinking in our state."

According to the CDC, the yearly total cost in Iowa from excessive alcohol consumption is nearly $2 billion.

Hibben said rankings show that Iowa is among the states with the highest rates of binge drinking and underage drinking in the country. Part of the effort to change that is focused on the 23 Iowa counties where the problem is the worst, with the aim of shifting societal norms.

"Alcohol use is a very normal part of many of our communities in Iowa, and so we want people to realize that alcohol use can be done responsibly, but binge drinking can be very problematic," she said.

Nationally, the cost of excessive alcohol consumption is estimated at more than $200 billion, and Dr. Robert Brewer, alcohol program leader at the CDC, said it is a major public health issue.

"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. This is a huge burden for society," Brewer declared.

Binge drinking is defined as consuming five or more drinks on one occasion for men, or four or more drinks for women.

The CDC report is at bit.ly/1dHPBmd. Iowa drinking details are at bit.ly/1fT7Cy3.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - IA