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North Dakota Pays a High Cost for Excessive Drinking

PHOTO: This year, a $10 million grant is aimed at helping North Dakota change some bad habits, by reducing drinking and driving, and underage drinking. Photo credit: Clint Rutkas
PHOTO: This year, a $10 million grant is aimed at helping North Dakota change some bad habits, by reducing drinking and driving, and underage drinking. Photo credit: Clint Rutkas
January 13, 2014

BISMARCK, N.D. - A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has found that at least 38 million Americans drink too much, and with that come major public health expenses for each of the states. The costs related to binge or heavy drinking come in areas like health care, social services and criminal justice, according to Pamela Sagness, prevention administrator, Division of Mental Health and Substance Abuse, North Dakota Department of Human Services.

"We know that in North Dakota, alcohol is one of the primary contributing factors to crime. One-quarter of all of our crime in this state is alcohol-related. So, it's pretty hard to not acknowledge that. A quarter of our arrests in North Dakota are actually DUIs," Sagness said.

The CDC estimated that excessive drinking costs North Dakota at least $420 million a year. The report also noted that only about one in six people talks to their doctor about drinking, although it said alcohol screening and brief counseling could help heavy drinkers cut their consumption by 25 percent.

North Dakota has been working to change the culture around drinking and driving, and underage consumption. Sagness noted that those efforts will get a big boost this year, thanks to a nearly $10 million grant.

"We have funding to provide to local public health units and tribes in North Dakota to build a plan around how they're going to tackle underage drinking and adult binge drinking. We really have the opportunity to do some grassroots, local-level work and to really make a difference in this area," she said.

Nationally, the CDC estimated the annual cost of excessive alcohol use at more than $200 billion, along with nearly 90,000 lives lost each year.

The CDC report is available at http://1.usa.gov. North Dakota substance abuse information is at http://bit.ly/1hePTiK.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - ND