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How Much Does Alcoholism Cost You?

Since drinking is such a cultural norm around the world, the overall expense is rarely brought up. The average cost of a bottle of wine is anywhere between $10-$35; beer is usually in the range of $6-$20 and depending on the brand, liquor can sell at similar prices to wine. Already, for the casual drinker, the prices slowly add up and can take a decent chunk of your hard-earned cash. For those struggling with alcoholism, the overall costs can become astronomical and crippling in more ways than one. Managing and mitigating addiction is not only detrimental because of the money lost to the substance, but also because of the subliminal funds that can hover just beneath the surface. From medical bills, to various legal fees, to personal opportunity cost, alcohol has so much potential to damage both the wallet and overall wellbeing of an individual.

The Cost Of Alcohol: Bottles And Bar Tabs

In 2010, the most recent year for which widespread data is available, research shows that the misuse of alcohol cost the United States a whopping $249 billion; 3/4 of this total cost is due to binge drinking. This number translates to roughly $807 per person and in terms of the distribution of who pays for what, only $2 of every $5 were paid by local, state, or federal governments meaning that the taxpayers, or, in other words, the general public, is picking up the bulk of alcohol-related costs.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), a man who drinks heavily, consuming an average of 14 drinks per week if priced at a gross estimate of $7 per drink, is spending roughly $5,096 on alcohol every year. If the average American spends approximately $2,000 on gas driving to and from various activities and responsibilities, it could be hypothesized that someone suffering from a drinking problem is throwing even more cash into their tanks just to obtain their drinks.

Alcohol-Related Medical Bills

Drinking-related medical expenses depend on a multitude of factors from the severity of the instigating problem to the individual’s health insurance coverage (or lack thereof).

Accidents And Short-Term Concerns

According to the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS), the average emergency room visit costs around $1,000. For someone without health insurance, that number is nearly $200 more expensive. Between the years 2006 and 2014, alcohol-related emergency visits have increased by 61%, accounting for both acute and chronic health concerns. Contingent upon the reason for the visit, there are other costs, too. Alcohol impairs the senses and often while people are under the influence, they find themselves in compromising circumstances that otherwise might not have occurred. In a recent study that explored the relationship between injury and alcohol consumption, it was found that though the volume fluctuated from case to case, alcohol was involved in around half of all drowning deaths and more than 1/3 of drowning injuries.

Whether it is an intense fall, an alcohol-induced car accident, or simply a case of drinking far too much and becoming very ill, a seemingly small and insignificant decision could cause a catastrophe to not only your health, but your finances.

Long-Term Effects And Chronic Illness 

Because there is a link between alcohol consumption and various long-term health conditions like heart failure, brain damage, liver disease, and various types of cancers, the costs of maintenance and treatment for such concerns are equally as important. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), excessive alcohol use is responsible for 7.1% of diseases in males and 2.2% in females.

For example, a study was done a few years ago investigating the cost of treatment for alcoholic hepatitis (AH), (the inflammation of the liver from drinking alcohol) over the course of 5 years and found that the total cost of treating such a disease averaged roughly $145,000. Similarly, the average cost of a cancer diagnosis can range from around $5,000 in out-of-pocket expenses under a company insurance plan to $12,000 in an individual, marketplace plan. Alcohol consumption is not necessarily synonymous with cancer and/or other conditions, but science does illustrate a strong correlation to numerous devastating (and costly) illnesses.

Detox, Rehab, And Treatment

Even without any long-term serious health concerns that require attention, anyone with an addiction to alcohol has to contend with the cost(s) of attending rehab and receiving treatment. Because detoxing from alcohol is often a painful and challenging process, it is never recommended to attempt detox without medical assistance in either an inpatient or outpatient treatment facility. Inpatient care is extensive and constant and as such, the price can range anywhere from $5,000-$80,000 depending on the center, length of stay, and type of insurance coverage. Outpatient rehab typically costs between $1,400-$10,000, but the total cost is dependent on other factors as well.

Legal Costs

After the overall cost of the actual alcohol, any associated medical bills and treatment coverage, one must think of the legal costs: the price of a DUI, the cost of a good lawyer, and the added compensation in damages caused by an accident. In general, a first-offense charge of Driving Under the Influence costs the individual between $500—$1,000, but depending on the individual’s Body Alcohol Content (BAC), the other age of the other passengers in the vehicle, and whether there were any injuries or property damage, that number could jump closer to $5,000.

The fine is bad enough without the additional penalties and punishments, including, but not limited to:

  • License suspension
  • Jail time
  • Probation
  • Community service
  • Vehicle impoundment

While the decision to drive drunk might cost nothing upfront, it can lead to a lifetime of financial hardship and personal ruin. You can always get a ride back to your car in the morning; you can’t, however, reverse a life-changing decision that impacts both yourself and everyone else on the road. The cost of an Uber, Lyft, or taxi is significantly cheaper than the price of driving under the influence.

Personal Costs

It’s important to remember that costs don’t just have to involve money. An addiction to alcohol can also cost you priceless hours from your job, your family, and all the other parts of life that make it enjoyable and worth living.

Lost Hours

Drinking excessively takes a physical toll on the body after a while. Fatigue, headache, nausea, increased sensitivity to light and sound, vertigo, and irritability often follow the morning after a night of drinking. The symptoms of a hangover can make it feel nearly impossible to do anything other than lie in bed and try not to vomit, resulting in hours lost from work, other activities, or time spent with family. According to the CDC, workplace losses account for 72% of the national average of the almost $250 billion in alcohol consumption. Every moment spent nursing a hangover during a workday is time lost; missed opportunities, chance of promotion obsolete, and often, eventual termination as a terrible consequence.

Hurting Family And Loved Ones

Addiction is a painful and lonely disease that pushes even those closest to us away. Eventually, trust can falter and cracks begin to emerge where once was a strong and sturdy foundation. In 2019, it was found that roughly 34.6% of divorces were due to a partner’s substance abuse. Alcohol and other substances don’t just ruin marriage, though. Roughly 7.5 million children (17 and under) in the US live with a caretaker who suffers from an alcohol use disorder (AUD) and between 2000-2019, the percentage of children removed from parental care increased over 20% from 18.5% in 2000 to 38.9% in 2019.

Take The First Step Toward Recovery

Addiction is deadly and devastating in many ways. If you or a loved one is suffering under the weight of a substance abuse, remember that you are not alone. There are numerous resources designed to help you free yourself and become the person you’ve always wanted to be. Contact a treatment provider to learn more, today. They are free and available 24 hours to answer any questions you might have.