The average news consumer might be surprised to learn that the economic costs of alcohol abuse far exceed those related to illegal drug use. In California, alcohol abuse cost $129 billion in 2010, $3,450 per California resident. That was almost three times the $44 billion bill for illicit drug use. The largest cost contributors were mortality, impaired driving, and violence. The costs varied greatly from city to city and county to county.
Researchers examined data from all 58 California counties, as well as a sample of 50 cities with populations between 50,000 and 500,000 persons. Using data from archives and public-use survey collected at state, county, and city levels during the years of 2009 to 2010, they also estimated the costs in 2010 dollars of the incidence and prevalence of AOD use, abuse, and related problems. The estimates include costs related to medical consequences, property damage, criminal justice involvement, and work loss, as well as lost quality of life.
Costs related to alcohol use and related problems exceeded the costs of illegal drugs across all counties and most cities. The burden of substance abuse was concentrated in the more rural northern and central areas of the state excluding the San Francisco Bay area. The authors concluded that these findings could be valuable in helping to determine the distribution of treatment and prevention resources required locally.
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