Excessive drinking costs the U.S. $224 billion per year, according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the first cost reassessment since the 1998 cost tally or $184.6 billion per year. The current tally breaks down to a cost of about $1.90 per drink or $746 per person. Losses break down to 72.2% from lost productivity, 11.0% from healthcare costs, 9.4% from criminal justice costs, and 7.5% from other effects.
Alcohol abuse is the nation's third leading cause of preventable death, resulting in an average of 79,000 premature deaths in the U.S. each year - estimated at 2.3 million years of potential life lost. Researchers also site the following: "Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with multiple adverse health and social consequences, including liver cirrhosis, certain cancers, unintentional injuries, violence, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Excessive alcohol consumption also causes premature death, increased healthcare costs, property damage from fire and motor vehicle crashes, increased crime and criminal justice system costs, and lost worker productivity in the form of missed work, diminished output, and reduced earnings potential."
The report on this study, "Economic Costs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption in the U.S., 2006" is published in the November 2011 issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine and is also available online.
There are numerous screening tests that are available online that could be used in a wellness program - either as interactive online tests, or simple screening tools that could be rprinted in newsletters, benefit portals or other employee communications.
Alcohol Screening Test - a free service of Join Together, a project of the The Partnership at Drugfree.org and Boston University School of Public Health. The anonymous online test helps individuals assess their own alcohol consumption patterns to determine if their drinking is likely to be harming their health or increasing their risk for future harm. Through education and referral, the site urges those whose drinking is harmful or hazardous to take positive action, and informs all adults who consume alcohol about guidelines and caveats for lower-risk drinking. More than one million people have completed this screening questionnaire since the site launched in 2001.
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism offers three common screening tests: The Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and the mnemonic CAGE and T-ACE tests.
For other tools, Ensuring Solutions is a health initiative at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, DC, that offers several, including an Alcohol Cost Calculator, materials for screening for alcohol problems, and a variety of other tools.
Other resources are available at the CDC: Alcohol & Public Health and OSHA:Workplace Substance Abuse, and NIOSH.
And of course, if you suspect that alcohol or any other substance is affecting an employee's health or productivity, we encourage you to make a referral to your organization's Employee Assistance Program.