Although alcohol consumption is usually viewed as an integral part of having a good time, drinking is one of the most damaging of all common American past times. Even if you think you drink in moderation, chances are that you’ve had a few too many once or twice. This can have more severe consequences than you may think.
Alcohol, although sold in nearly every grocery and convenience store across the nation, is indeed one of the most deadly drugs available for consumption. If you think having a few beers while watching a football game and kicking back with friends at a barbecue isn’t a big deal, consider the following startling alcohol consumption statistics:
- Alcohol consumption is attributed to nearly 88,000 deaths annually
- Over 10,000 of these deaths were due to driving under the influence
- Over 71,000 deaths due to alcohol-related liver damage occur annually
- Nearly 1.5 million under-aged drinkers engage in over-consumption of alcohol every year
The human cost of alcohol over-consumption, abuse and addiction is very real. Alcoholism also affects the economy is many detrimental ways.
How Does Alcoholism Affect the Economy and Youth?
Alcohol use is normalized in American society, and many people grow up watching parents, families and friends drink regularly. While moderate and responsible alcohol consumption isn’t necessarily associated with many overt risks, the fact that it is readily available in nearly every household predisposes young people to early experimentation.
In fact, it is not uncommon for kids as young as 12 years of age to start drinking. Early alcohol use has been associated with the following risks:
- Academic issues
- Behavioral problems
- Disruption of normal physical and psychological development
- Increased risk for suffering physical or sexual assault
- Abuse of other drugs
- Increased risk for developing substance abuse issues or addiction
Children are our future, so if they are afflicted by the many issues that stem from underage consumption, alcoholism can negatively affect the economy early on by harming potential future workers. We currently compete in a tough international marketplace for goods and services. As international economic competition increases, we need our children and young adults to be able to keep pace with ever changing marketplace demands.
Another important component of youth health and education is athletic participation. Not only do sports foster teamwork, dedication and social connections, they can also provide scholarships to help kids get into college. However, a recent survey found that 50 percent of all participating high school coaches stated that alcohol use by their students was a major and growing problem. Alcohol related issues that interfere with athletic participation could cost kids by preventing them from accessing scholarships and other perks associated with excellence in athletics.
How Alcohol Affects the Economy and Workplace
Workplace productivity is an area of the economy that is all but devastated by alcohol abuse and addiction. Alcohol affects the economy to the tune of nearly $93 billion per year, in the form of products, goods and services that were never produced or delivered due to employee drinking.
An estimated 6 to 7 million employed Americans are alcoholics. This means that millions of workers are unproductive, causing costly errors and are being involved in accidents due to their drinking habits. The American economy has faced turbulent times in the past decade, and alcohol clearly is detrimental to the country’s future chance at economic solvency.
How Alcohol Affects the Economy and Healthcare
The United States spends a greater percentage of its wealth on healthcare than does any other industrialized nation in the world. Alcohol plays a large role in this problem and also affects the health of people in many indirect ways.
Past studies have shown that $15 billion in annual healthcare costs were incurred due to alcohol related injury and trauma. While this figure in and of itself is staggering, consider these peripheral health ramifications of alcoholism:
- Healthcare costs of an alcoholic are roughly twice that of a non-drinker
- Up to 50 percent of all emergency room admissions are due to alcohol
- Prenatal alcohol use poses a high risk for birth defects and future behavioral or developmental issues
- Alcohol is a factor in over 50 percent of all domestic violence cases
- Alcohol plays a role in nearly 15 percent of child abuse cases
Alcoholism affects the economy by destroying people’s health, family stability and overburdening the healthcare system. Not only do alcoholics inflict pain and suffering upon themselves, they also damage their family, friends, coworkers and entire community. Alcohol abuse and addiction does not occur in a vacuum, instead it insidiously branches out and slowly damages nearly every part of an alcoholic’s life.
How to Reduce the Effect of Alcoholism on the Economy
Alcoholism, or any form of drug addiction, is a complicated illness. It is always easier to prevent excessive consumption than it is to treat a person who has already formed such a habit. With this in mind, many communities have taken proactive measures to reduce drinking rates, such as:
- Increasing the cost of alcohol by raising taxes
- Reducing availability of alcohol vendors
- Reducing legal days and times of sales
- Holding alcohol vendors liable for damages caused by inebriated or under-aged customers
These evidence-based approached help to reduce alcoholism and to curb the costs of damages associated with excessive consumption.
Outreach and education programs can help people who are suffering from alcoholism to find appropriate treatment and learn about the consequences of continued abuse. Although there is no easy answer to solve the problematic causes of alcoholism, encouraging an open social discussion will help to raise awareness of this issue and encourage greater access to treatment and prevention programs.