Alcohol Abuse

V. Key Issues: Population Health >> E. Health Promotion >> Alcohol Abuse (last updated 1.17.18)


  • Alcohol abuse in the U.S. adds $30 billion to health costs and imposes an additional $205 billion in non-health costs related to automobile accidents, crime, lost work productivity etc. (NIDA 2012).

External Costs of Excess Alcohol Use

According to a 2017 Brookings literature synthesis:

  • Parry et al. (2009) estimate the externality at $68 per alcohol gallon in 2000 or about $45 per proof gallon in 2015 (about $2.50 per six pack). Parry, Ian W.H., Ramanan Laxminaraya, and Sarah E. West, Fiscal and Externality Rationales for Alcohol Taxes. Resources for the Future Discussion Paper, April 2009.
  • Manning et al. (1989) puts externality at $0.48/oz in 1986 or about $58 per proof gallon in 2015; Manning, William G., Emmet B. Keeler, Joseph P. Newhouse, Elizabeth M. Sloss and Jeffrey Wasserman, The Taxes of Sin: Do Smokers and Drinkers Pay Their Way? Journal of the American Medical Association, March 1989, Vol. 261, No. 11, 1604-1609.

Policy Alternatives


  • Public Health Law ResearchAlcohol Policy Information SystemAPIS provides detailed information on a wide variety of alcohol-related policies in the United States at both State and Federal levels. Detailed, state-by-state, information is available for 35 different policies. APIS also provides a variety of informational resources of interest to alcohol policy researchers and others involved with alcohol policy issues.


Alcohol Treatment

  • According to German Lopez at, “The simplest explanation is that 12-step treatment and AA meetings work for some people but not for others. J. Scott Tonigan, a researcher at the University of New Mexico Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions (CASAA), said the research supports a “rule of thirds”: About a third of people maintain recovery from alcohol addiction due to 12-step treatment, another third get something out of the treatment but not enough for full recovery, and another third get nothing at all.”


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