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Cost of Binge Drinking in Tennessee: $4 Billion Annually

PHOTO: The costs associated with excessive alcohol use in Tennessee are more than $4 billion a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CREDIT: Graeme Maclean
PHOTO: The costs associated with excessive alcohol use in Tennessee are more than $4 billion a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CREDIT: Graeme Maclean
December 2, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - The holidays are a time of celebrating, and often that includes the consumption of alcohol, but those who do not enjoy in moderation are not only affecting themselves but also putting a big burden on society. Rodney Bragg, assistant commissioner, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, said binge drinking has adverse consequences in many areas, including short and long-term health.

"People die earlier who are serious abusers of alcohol, probably about 15 to 20 years earlier than the general population. And there are correctional costs: The majority of people in our prisons are in there for some sort of substance abuse, and alcohol is often the reason," Bragg explained.

One effort under way in Tennessee that is finding success in reducing binge drinking among teens and young adults uses so-called "universal prevention" programs on a community level, Bragg said.

"They'll go into the schools. They'll teach classes. They do lots of public service works. They do lots with their local governments" he said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the yearly total cost in Tennessee of excessive alcohol consumption is more than $4 billion. Nationally, the cost of excessive alcohol consumption is estimated at more than $200 billion.

Dr. Robert Brewer, alcohol program leader, CDC, called it 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," Brewer warned, "and in many states, the same order of magnitude as the cost of Medicaid. This is a huge burden for society."

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

The 2006 CDC report is available at www.ajpmonline.org. Tennessee drinking statistics are at www.americashealthrankings.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - TN