The misuse and abuse of alcohol and drugs can have various repercussions, not only on the individuals doing that and their families, but also on the society as a whole. One of its major consequences is financial burden. Besides causing health complications and raising concerns for public safety, alcohol and drugs cost the United States billions of dollars every year.
Like the impact, the economic cost of these substances varies immensely from one place to another. In fact, the cost of alcohol misuse is relatively far greater than the cost of drug misuse in most counties in the U.S. Since studies related to economic and social costs of alcohol and drug abuse are generally conducted at the state and national levels, this allows policymakers to better assess the problems within their jurisdiction and come up with countermeasures.
Similarly, a study, led by author Ted Miller and conducted at the Prevention Research Center of Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, sought to find out the consequences of alcohol and drug misuse in California and was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research (ACER).
Alcohol abuse cost California $129 billion in 2010
The study highlighted the eye-opening economic burden of alcohol and drug related problems on the Californian taxpayer’s money across all 58 counties and 50 midsized cities. It was found that alcohol-related problems are more prevalent and costlier than drug-related problems in California. Moreover, both costs and repercussions varied greatly from one place to another. Some other findings are as follows:
- While alcohol-related problems cost $129 billion in 2010, which comes to $3,450 for every Californian, drug-related problems cost $44 billion in the same year.
- The highest per capita cost ($7,819) of alcohol problem was more than three times the lowest per capita cost ($2,588). Among the counties with drug-related problems the per capita cost varied between $608 and $3,786.
- The rates of alcohol and drug-related problems were found to be higher in the Californian cities. The highest per capita cost of alcohol-related problems in a city was $10,734, 11 times higher than the city with the lowest costs. Among the cities, the highest per capita cost of drug-related problems was $7,159, almost 19 times higher than the city with the lowest cost.
Correspondingly, the breakup of alcohol and drug-related costs are as follows:
- Crashes and accidents under the influence of alcohol cost $26 billion in 2010.
- Of the $10 billion cost borne due to violence associated to substance use, 73 percent was attributed to alcohol, while the remaining 27 percent was attributed to drugs.
- Of the $127 billion expenditure incurred due to other illnesses and injuries, 73 percent of the costs resulted from alcohol-related problems. Similarly, 82 percent of the $4 billion cost incurred due to nonviolent crimes were attributed to drug abuse.
- 74 percent of $2 billion incurred due to treatment expenditure was attributed to drug-related problems.
The study authors believe that the findings can assist policymakers and help the state in planning and allocating resources for substance abuse problems. In addition, this study provides a crucial tool for predicting and averting alcohol and drug-related problems, as well as a crucial means to plot localized cost estimates.
According to Dr. Miller, “Efficient funding of substance abuse prevention, enforcement and treatment hinges upon understanding the variation of alcohol and other drug problems from place to place. Because estimated costs combine data across many health and social issues, they provide an effective, comprehensible, and comprehensive measure for use in understanding how communities shape their distinctive social environments and for monitoring the effectiveness of our intervention strategies.”
Avoid the death trap
In 2010, problems related to alcohol and drugs in California led to 22,281 and 5,533 deaths, respectively. In addition, crimes related to alcohol and drugs were responsible for 350,000 and 164,000 deaths, respectively. These large and unsettling numbers are pertaining to only one of the 50 U.S. states, signaling a far greater magnitude of the problem.