Drug and Alcohol Addiction Costs $276 Billion Annually in U.S.

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Drug and Alcohol Addiction Costs $276 Billion Annually in U.S.

According to a recent analysis, Americans spend approximately $276 billion per year on substance use, such as alcohol, tobacco, and and drugs. Comparatively, the government doesn’t even spend that much on education and veteran’s benefits combined.

The analysis, which was performed by a California-based referral service, revealed that about 50% of that spending is on alcohol and nicotine. To obtain their estimate, they used a variety of sources, including government figures and news reports.

Of the $140 billion spent on the two legal substances, nicotine beat out alcohol – just barely – with 52% of the spending. Alcohol consumption was broken down to alcohol abuse, or binge drinking, which made up about 25%. The other 23% were considered “heavy drinkers” who consumed about 21 drinks per week.

Of drug spending, marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine made up about 28%. The other 22% was the non-medical use of prescription drugs, such as opioids and stimulants.

But that’s not where it ends. The effects of substance abuse, including addiction treatment, law enforcement activities, drug-related crime, and accidents cost Americans at least $1 trillion per year.


Hard to believe that drug and alcohol addiction costs that much? Not for me – I get it. As a former alcoholic, I estimate that I easily spent close to $1800 per year on alcohol. In 2007, I was arrested for drinking and driving. That year, drinking cost me nearly $7000, including legal fees and counseling.

But I wasn’t the worst of the worst, not by far. At most, I would consume around 7-9 bottles of wine per week. The top 10% of alcoholic abuses are said to consume 74 drinks per week, which equates to roughly 18 bottles of wine, or six 12-packs of beer. Eighteen bottles of wine, at its cheapest, would run about $70 per week, or $280 per month. That’s about $3500 per year.

Heavy tobacco users may have it just as bad, or worse. Using the average price of cigarettes at $5.51 per pack, a pack-a-day smoker will spend $2011 per year on a substance that is a known killer, with no known health benefits whatsoever. Those who roll their own cigarettes, of course, may spend considerably less.

~ G. Nathalee Serrels, M.A., Psychology

Related: Why We Have To Stop Shaming Alcoholics and Drug Addicts

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