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Binge Drinking's Tab Is Higher In D.C. Than Anywhere Else

All that drinking costs you—and the government.
All that drinking costs you—and the government.

Excessive drinking has both personal and societal costs, and nowhere are those costs higher than in D.C.

A new study finds that the excessive consumption of alcohol in D.C. in 2006 incurred individual and governmental costs of $966 million, or $2.35 per drink and $1,662 per resident. That put D.C. far above any of the 50 states and the national median of $1.91 per drink and $703 per resident. In Maryland, the costs stood at $1.96 per drink and $743 per resident, while in Virginia it hit $1.92 and $701, respectively.

Nationally, the costs from excessive drinking cost $223.5 billion, or $1.90 per drink. The costs incurred resulted from losses in workplace productivity, health care expenses, law enforcement and criminal justice expenses, and car crashes. Those costs were evenly split between what individuals and governments incurred. In D.C., for example, excessive drinking cost the government $403 million in 2006, or $694 per resident.

Binge drinking—more than four drinks in one sitting for women and five for men—accounted for the majority of the costs incurred, accounting for roughly 70 percent nationwide. In D.C., binge drinking cost $745 million in 2006; it was $3.2 billion and $4.1 billion in Maryland and Virginia, respectively.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, one in six Americans binge drink about four times per month. Last year the CDC reported that on average D.C. residents down six drinks in one sitting.

Why is D.C. so much higher than the states? Alcohol excise taxes are relatively low, retail outlets and bars are densely located in certain areas and alcohol is sold throughout the week. Earlier this year D.C. began allowing the sale of spirits on Sundays, and various brewers and distillers have set up shop in the city in recent years. Additionally, the CDC reports that binge drinking rates are higher among those that make more than $75,000 a year and are well-educated.

Last year D.C. was ranked first nationwide in wine consumption.

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