PhotoOne new study quantifies the cost of excessive drinking while another finds that normalizing dopamine levels in the brain can reduce alcohol cravings in problem drinkers.

In a study released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the cost of excessive drinking is pegged at $249 billion in 2010, or $2.05 per drink, a significant increase from $223.5 billion, or $1.90 per drink, in 2006.

Most of these costs were due to reduced workplace productivity, crime, and the cost of treating people for health problems caused by excessive drinking.

In the dopamine study, researchers said that humans who took an experimental drug that targets the dopamine system showed a marked reduction in alcohol craving. Similar results were found in rats.

Current drugs aren't very effective, partly because the U.S. population is so genetically diverse, scientists say. What works for one group of people doesn't work for others.

The study was conducted by researchers in Sweden. They said that the experimental drug helped normalize dopamine levels so that the research subjects were not as dependent on alcohol for a feeling of well-being.

It's estimated that More than 16 million adults in the U.S. have an alcohol-use disorder, and nearly 88,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Running a tab

PhotoIn the CDC study, most of the costs of excessive drinking were due to reduced workplace productivity, crime, and the cost of treating people for health problems caused by excessive drinking.

Binge drinking, defined as drinking five or more drinks on one occasion for men or four or more drinks on one occasion for women, was responsible for most of these costs (77 percent). Two of every 5 dollars of costs -- over $100 billion -- were paid by governments.

“The increase in the costs of excessive drinking from 2006 to 2010 is concerning, particularly given the severe economic recession that occurred during these years,” said Robert Brewer, M.D., M.S.P.H., head of CDC’s Alcohol Program and one of the study’s authors. “Effective prevention strategies can reduce excessive drinking and related costs in states and communities, but they are under used.”

Excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for an average of 88,000 deaths each year, including 1 in 10 deaths among working-age Americans ages 20-64.

The study, “2010 National and State Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption," is available here.


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