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April 12, 2024

Dollars Down the Drain: How Alcohol Addiction Hurts Your Pockets

The widespread prevalence of alcoholism in the United States is a costly affair, both for those suffering from the condition and for the economic health of the country at large. The path from being a social drinker to engaging in alcohol abuse is quite slippery and poses enormous social, economic, and psychological costs. The ripple effects of its financial repercussions extend from the individual to the national. It is worth getting an accurate sense of just how draining addiction can be.

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April 12, 2024

The State of Alcohol Addiction

There is little doubt that America has a pronounced drinking problem. Per capita consumption has been steadily increasing since the early 2000s, and so have alcohol-related deaths and injuries. The pandemic also contributed to dysfunctional drinking as a way of combating stress and isolation. A survey by Neilson recorded a 54% rise in the sale of alcohol in 2020, the year after COVID-19 first emerged on the scene. The numbers point to the urgency of promoting a moderate drinking culture across the country.

Drinking has evolved as a way of socializing and connecting with people. It can be an enjoyable and friendly activity to begin with, as long as it doesn’t turn into a misguided coping mechanism that develops into a habit. Data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) puts the national per capita annual consumption of ethanol at 2.51 gallons in 2021. That means Americans were consuming an average of 1.47 standard drinks per day.

The question, now, is who is an alcoholic?

The Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) defines heavy drinkers as those individuals who end up consuming more than 14 drinks per week for men, and above 7 drinks per week for women. For anyone who would like to know more about their condition, Alcoholics Anonymous has an accessible self-assessment that tells you if you need help with your consumption habits. A doctor’s diagnosis will give a clearer picture of your situation vis-a-vis alcohol.

A Closer Look at the Personal Cost of Alcohol

Alcohol abuse is often not considered as serious as substance abuse since it is quite acceptable in public life as a beverage for convivial and celebratory use. Alcoholics soon develop tolerance, however, which means that they become less sensitive to the effects of alcohol and have to keep increasing the amount of drink for the same level of intoxication.

Going by the CDC’s minimum bar associated with heavy drinking, and assuming an average price of $7 per drink, 14 drinks a week will cost you roughly $98. Multiply that by 52 weeks in a year and the figure comes up to $5,096. These are just direct monetary costs, but the larger financial cost of binge drinking can take a tremendous toll on the personal, psychological, and physical aspects of an individual.

The NIAAA offers an alcohol cost calculator to estimate individual spending to monitor the cost of your weekly drinking and how it affects your financial life.

Economic Costs of Alcohol Abuse in Society

Alcohol abuse is a growing public health crisis across American communities, from rural to urban and across all socioeconomic strata. Nearly one-third of people who drink in the US are at risk of alcohol dependence and related health consequences. There’s also been a significant spike in alcohol-related deaths, which have shot up 25.5% between 2019 and 2020, as per research published in the JAMA Network.

Being clinically dependent on alcohol has several observable downsides on the individual - but the economic burden of the habit often remains undiscussed. A comprehensive study by the CDC found that the drain on the national economy due to alcoholism amounted to a forfeiture of $249 billion in 2010. The cost per head comes to $807, with $2 of every $5 being paid by local, state, or federal governments from taxpayer money.

Societal costs of excessive alcohol consumption are quite varied and need to be analyzed from many angles, such as healthcare expenditures, lost earnings, crime rates, rehab and recovery costs to the individual and the state, among others.

Risky Decisions: Impaired Judgment and Costly Mistakes

Alcohol addiction can impair one’s ability to spend responsibly and lead to poor financial decision-making and money crunches due to increased dependency on insobriety. Worryingly, lower-income households tend to spend proportionately more on alcohol than higher-income households, which takes away from vital spending and savings.

The physiological impact of alcohol is also relevant in this context. Alcohol affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is mainly involved in judgment and impulse control. As a result, alcoholism creates the conditions that lead to making poor investment decisions and becoming more prone to other forms of addiction such as gambling, taking loans, and neglecting payments and bills.

Healthcare Expenses: The Physical Toll Takes a Financial Bite

There has been substantial research done on alcohol-associated secondary conditions such as cardiovascular issues, liver damage, and various types of cancers.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol abuse is responsible for 7.1% of diseases in males and 2.2% in females. Healthcare costs associated with treating alcohol-related illnesses and injuries are substantial. According to a study published on JAMA Network, hospital bills attributable to alcohol-related disorders amounted to $35 billion per year.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School have projected the doubling of annual costs related to the treatment of alcohol-associated liver disease (ALD) between 2022 and 2040. Long-term health conditions can be very costly to treat and put a strain on healthcare resources.

It can also lead to chronic conditions such as dementia, Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, and multiple organ failure. Abstaining or moderating your alcohol intake is not just a money-saving measure in the short term, it also goes a long way in easing the burden on national healthcare systems and your retirement savings.

Recovery: An Out-of-Pocket Expense That Becomes A Necessity

Once an alcohol abuse problem is diagnosed, it becomes extremely important to reach out for help. It is not controversial to say, however, that rehab is an expensive affair and cost-efficient services are generally not easy to

The average costs of alcohol-related rehabilitation vary according to location, type of program, and health insurance. In general, however, inpatient programs are more expensive, with prices ranging from $2000 to $40,000.

Meanwhile, outpatient treatments can cost less than $1,000. They are less restrictive and might be more suitable for those who have mild or moderate withdrawal symptoms. Outpatient treatment can also include partial residential stays and is more accommodating of an individual’s schedule.

Ultimately, deciding what rehab center is best for you depends on an individual’s assessment by a doctor or health specialist.

Hollywood Hills Recovery - Your Partner to Lasting Sobriety

At Hollywood Hills Recovery, we carefully tailor our approach to alcohol addiction treatment according to each individual’s unique needs and circumstances. Our expert team provides innovative treatments to battle alcohol addiction for long-term well-being.

We understand that long-term sobriety is a journey that is different for each individual. This is why we offer a wide range of treatment programs, such as inpatient detox, residential intensive treatment, as well as aftercare programs.

Contact us today if you or a loved one is battling with alcohol addiction.

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