Study: Binge Boozing Costs Society $2 Per Drink

After heavy drinkers get to the point that they’ve had too many, each drink ends up costing society $2 in extra medical expenses and other costs, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study. The “other” costs result mainly from drunk driving — in funds spent to lock up drunk drivers and damage from accidents.

Using the money quote “Binge drinking results in binge spending,” the CDC estimates over-drinking stuck the nation with a $224 billion tab in 2006. That makes $1.90 per excess drink, 80 cents of which was footed by the government. The study was published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The AP reports other studies have found that smoking costs society $193 billion annually, while lack of exercise costs $150 billion.

CDC: Add $2 per drink for US excessive drinking [AP via Atlanta Journal-Constitution]


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  1. Loias supports harsher punishments against corporations says:

    This is why I binge drink at home. Why spend $10/drink when I already know society has to pay $2 more on that drink. I’m frugal!

  2. frank64 says:

    I know this will mean a call for taxing liquor. But what about the people who drink responsibly, why should they pay for the ones who abuse it?

    • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

      Instead of that (there’s nothing you can do to prevent people from drinking at home in mass quantities) I’d just prefer to see a drink limit at restaurants.

    • maruawe says:

      Of course — do you really think that they can afford to abuse alcohol. Who do you think pays for everything abused by other people. As usual the government is passing the buck to the lowest common denominator….the working class

      • Oranges w/ Cheese says:

        If the government hadn’t closed all the mental health facilities in this country, I think we’d have a lot fewer drunks, too.

      • Galium says:

        Let you in on a secret, everything is passed on to the working class. Raise the cost of anything by X and the working class pays cost+X+5. The plus 5 is extra for the stockholders and upper managment, and is not limited to a single didget.

    • unsmith says:

      In Maryland, we already have a separate liquor and beer tax in restaurants.

  3. vastrightwing says:

    Oh great! I can see it coming now: Politicians who need reasons to overspend and create legislation will simply dictate how much we can drink or not drink and will regulate (read tax) alcohol more than they already do. The writing is on the wall.

    • rushevents says:

      3 types of liars…
      1) Liars
      2) Damned Liars
      3) Statisticians

      Which one do you think this report utilized?

  4. JennyCupcakes misses her grandson says:

    How much do the mass quantities of tacos and/or White Castle that you binge eat afterward add to this equation?

  5. axhandler1 says:

    And how much did the enforcement of marjiuana laws cost society?

    • Mighty914 says:


      Wait, it’s not in there? Must be because this has absolutely nothing to do with that.

      • axhandler1 says:

        Oh wait, you’re right. Most of the additional costs from alcohol abuse are due to hospital bills, car accidents from drunk driving, and property damage from violent drunks. Since none of those costs would be applicable to marijuana abusers, I guess it doesn’t have much to do with this. My bad!

      • Philosoraptor says:

        Isn’t that the point? At the end of the article, comparisons are made to smoking and not exercising (our modern secular vices). There is a product that is strangely absent, axhandler speculates its because the “cost” would be quite small or negative in comparison.
        This is the media’s way of moralizing, showing how some fiction called “society” is harmed. Meanwhile, ignoring the blatant counter-example.

        For diligent consumers, some of you don’t ask for much when consuming media.

        • Mighty914 says:

          Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. I don’t think the article was trying to make any specific point at the end about the cots of certain vices in society versus what it would cost to stop them. More likely, the author just added them as a means of comparison for the figure he had just given. I didn’t find the absence of marijuana costs to be “strange.”

          Believe it or not, I agree with what I infer axhandler’s stance on marijuana to be. However, this article really isn’t relevant to a discussion of the pros and cons of legalizing marijuana.

          P.S. Ax, as I said, I’m pretty sure I agree with your position, but to ignore that there is (or would be) any cost is either purposefully blind or naive.

          • axhandler1 says:

            “P.S. Ax, as I said, I’m pretty sure I agree with your position, but to ignore that there is (or would be) any cost is either purposefully blind or naive.”

            I’m pretty sure you agree with my position too, but I’m not sure what you are referring to when you talk about ignoring any cost. I was just pointing out the irrationality of making a point about how binge drinking costs society a lot of money when there is a much more obvious culprit in marjiaunana laws. I think your point was that this is an article about binge drinking; how much money we waste on marijuana enforcement is a separate discussion. Which I agree with, now that I’ve thought about it a bit.

  6. Cat says:

    And enforcement of marijuana laws alone is conservatively estimated to be $42 billion annually. That doesn’t factor in such things as lost tax revenue on the estimated $130 billion plus dollars spent on buying it from drug cartels.

    (2007-2008 figures)

  7. aloria says:

    Find me a therapist who actually cares and I’ll stop drinking so much.


  8. pop top says:

    So for all the people who say that insurance rates should be raised for those who smoke, should rates also be raised for those who drink? Especially since drinking costs $31 billion more a year than smoking.

    • frank64 says:

      I think the difference is that smoking does more direct damage, while if someone has one or two there could even be a health benefit.

    • Dallas_shopper says:

      Because smokers are a soft target, and there’s no such thing as ‘smoking in moderation’ as any amount of smoking is baaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaad whereas it is possible to drink ‘responsibly’ without negatively affecting your health. Not so with smoking.

      • TheHalfWit says:

        Smoking isn’t a might though when it comes to a negative impact. Where red wine and reasonable limits can actually extend a drinkers life beyond that of a non drinker, I have yet to hear of a smoker live longer for smoking.

        While my grandmother smoked for 30 years and is still alive and kicking at 76 walking 2 miles per day, 2 of my other grandparents and 2 of my great grand parents are in coffins from lung cancer.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      Insurance rates are already based on that. Virtually every health insurance form I’ve filled out asked about smoking and number of drinks per day. A few even asked about whether I rode a motorcycle, ran in marathons, and a few other really bizarre questions. When they pull your health history from your doctor, I have no doubt that they go over every physical questionnaire for risk factors when determining premiums, as well as any info in your BIM report.

      Between my wife and I looking for insurance and my company putting our group out to bid, I’ve probably filled out applications asking the same questions, in different ways at least 20 times.

      • pop top says:

        “Insurance rates are already based on that.”

        Yes, I know. But any time there is a thread about smoking, there are always several comments about how insurance companies should really gouge smokers because smoking costs so much money annually. Now this study shows that alcohol consumption costs $31 billion more, but no one is saying we should gouge drinkers…

        • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

          Maybe because health insurance companies already do just that.

          They don’t want anything to do with those who smoke, drink, or even use OTC drugs on a regular basis without charging a significantly higher premium.

          • pop top says:

            I think you are missing my point. Insurance companies already punish smokers and drinkers, yes, I know this. But when we have threads about smoking, people say that insurance companies should punish them MORE. I don’t see anyone in this thread advocating that for drinkers.

  9. sirwired says:

    Personally, I’m skeptical of all these studies that cite that “X habit or disease costs the country Y Billion $ annually.” The numbers, added all together, are just too high to be plausible, so you don’t know which ones to believe.

    (Also suspect are “X percent of American suffer from Y (vague) condition.”) We should all be sick, infirm, or dead if you add all those numbers together.

    • zack says:


    • frank64 says:

      …..and housework is worth $250,000 anually.

      • StarKillerX says:

        I forgot the old “housework value” studies that used to come out every few years, haven’t seen one of those in awhile.

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I’m always dubious too. When you extrapolate across a population of 300 million, you’ll get enormous numbers for virtually anything.

    • StarKillerX says:

      I tend to be skeptical of these studies because they often are designed to advance a political agenda, in this case the CDC gets to justify further spending by itself on this issue and politicians use it to justify increased “sin” tax on the items.

    • Puppyclaws says:

      These studies are flawed in many ways. They also don’t consider weighing the supposed “costs” against the “benefits,” they take a one-sided look at the numbers and use whatever measures they can to come to as high a number as possible.

  10. Tim says:

    Ehh. The only costs to me are a few ibuprofen pills and some greasy breakfast food.

  11. maruawe says:

    These over inflated studies sometimes are so erroneous that a person can smell the smell from a mile away As with the smoking and countless others over the years the CDC is using scare tactics to arise interest in what it says.. If they were not so contradictory and conflicting in their statements then maybe ,just maybe , someone would listen except over the top liberals.
    Of course I would like to have the same data to analyze to see if I came up wit the same answers
    In cases where I was able to get the data the results were very different from those who done the studies in the first place…….

    • pop top says:

      Those damn liberals, always lying about harmful thinks like drunk driving and smoking.

    • u1itn0w2day says:

      I would think a regular binge drinker has other medical problems which are amplified by binging if not included in the study.

  12. FrugalFreak says:

    Time for the winos to pay the piper! Did you ridicule smokers or fat folk?

    MUHAHA It’s about time it was treated all equal.

  13. Rocket80 says:

    Who is “Society” and where do they get their money? Do they mean government?

  14. milehound says:

    And this is why booze is so heavily taxed in alcoholic Northern European countries.

  15. FenianEMT says:

    I would be very interested to know what the breakdown is between drunk driving and health costs. If the costs associated with drunk driving make up a significant percentage of the cost, then I would argue that the headline (which is based on comments from the CDC director) is absolutely wrong. People who live in cities and walk or use public transportation to get to and from the locations of their binge drinking do not contribute in any way to the drunk driving costs.

    I would also be interested to see how the costs that relate to the actual drinking (not the already illegal drunk driving) compare to the total taxation per drink.

  16. fortymegafonzies says:

    To be a fair assessment, wouldn’t they have to include the benefits to society? I think the economic benefit of drinking probably meets or exceeds the costs if you look at all the jobs and business it creates. I’m not arguing for or against drinking, but if you’re talking economic effects, you should consider both ends.

    • pop top says:

      What are the benefits of drinking to society?

      • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

        It makes company Christmas parties tolerable and is a good facilitator of sex.

        Plus, lots of people are employed at breweries, distilleries, distributors, bars, etc.

      • aloria says:

        Booze is cheaper than antidepressants?

      • fortymegafonzies says:

        The economic benefits …many,many jobs and businesses. Bars, restaurants, drivers, warehouses, etc… As I said, I’m not making any judgement about alcohol, just that if you’re putting an economic cost on it, you should include the black ink along with the red ink.

      • Puppyclaws says:

        Lower healthcare costs, cheap self-medication for mental health problems, positive socialization experiences, millions of dollars in an industry (read: jobs), and don’t forget decreased crime (given that Prohibition gave us the birth of organized crime).

    • StarKillerX says:

      Actually that is an excellent point.

      I remember in the mid 80’s the Cadadian Government reported on a comprehensive study it had done on the cost of smoking to society in one of their provinces. Well the results came out and sent the anti-tobacco crowd into fits because despite the excuse used for taxes that it costs society billions/trillions this study actually found that smokers used less healthcare over their life because they died younger. Not a glowing endorsement but it goes counter to the public perception.

      The study also showed that despite the lower healthcare costs, which the study showed that on average 80% of the healthcare dollars consumed are done in the last 12-24 months of an elderly person’s life because nursing homes and/or long term hospitalization.

      Finally it looked at home much was brought in my taxes on tobacco every year and while I can’t remember the exact number it was 10’s on billions of dollars (and this was about 25 years ago.)

      Of course this study was bashed, ripped apart and complained about for the rest of the week and then afterwards it disappeared into the nether regions as an inconvenient truth.

  17. shibotu says:

    I want to see a study about how much self righteous busy bodies cost society.

  18. sb9522 says:

    If people didn’t binge drink then there are no beer goggles! No beer goggles means a lot of unloved fat girls. See…there is a societal benefit to binge drinking!

    Now if we can get the fat people to excercise, then less need to binge drink. Between the two, it would save $374 billion.

  19. RobinB says:

    But if my state lost alcohol sales, it would lose its new 9% tax on them.

  20. Damocles57 says:

    The CDC conducts their own study, promotes their own study citing a specific cost to society, AND states that “the new study likely represents an underestimate of the total cost.”

    If they know the study is under-reporting the total cost, why don’t they report the total cost?

    Who commissioned the study? What other governmental agencies will use the study to justify new or expanded laws regarding drinking? Was this study designed specifically to evaluate binge drinking or were data from other studies “massaged” to fit binge drinking study criteria? What data were collected and omitted during the final analysis? When was the study first discussed? How long did it take? How long have the results been known? Why release the results now?

  21. meerkat says: