Although many Americans enjoy alcohol in moderation, excessive drinking costs the U.S. economy more than $220 billion per year, or $1.90 per drink.
Seventy-two percent of the costs come from lost workplace productivity, according to a survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which studies the negative externalities of alcohol abuse. The figures suggest the economic cost from hangover days in the workplace may total $160 billion, which is comparable to the economic cost of natural disasters such as hurricanes and tornadoes.
In aggregate, Americans consume some 117 billion alcoholic drinks every year, whether sipping fine wine in Napa Valley or pounding cold ones in the Bronx. Of a total of $1.90 in economic cost per drink, $1.60 is lost in productivity from hangovers.
However, a small proportion of the population is to blame for the problem, with just 15 percent of adults responsible for three-quarters of the cost of excessive alcohol consumption, the CDC says.
Overall, the cost of excessive drinking in society is split between government and the individual, with federal, state, and local governments losing $94.2 billion per year from excessive drinking -- or 42 percent of the cost. Approximately the same cost-share is borne by excessive drinkers and their families, as households lose income from work and productivity.
Drinkers and their dependents lose $92.9 billion per year from what scientists classify as a primary, and often, chronic, brain disease. Government agencies paid 61 percent of the health care costs associated with excessive drinking.
CDC defines "moderate drinking" as one drink per day for women and no more than two per day for men, although the definition is intended as a limit for any random day, as opposed to an average consumption over several days.