MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A sobering new study finds alcohol use and abuse is costing us all.

The Centers for Disease Control found excessive drinking cost the U.S. $249 billion in 2010. The dollar figure covers everything from disease to crimes where alcohol played a role. Minnesota accounted for $3.8 billion and Wisconsin $4.4 billion.

It’s a night out on the town that could cost much more than your bar tab. A breakdown from the CDC finds we all pay for excessive drinking, as much as $2 a drink.

Those costs cover everything from falls to fires, homicides to hypothermia, anything where alcohol played a part.

“This just highlights the fact that this continues to be a problem both in terms of health and in terms of economics,” Commissioner Ed Ehlinger from the Minnesota Department of Health said.

Ehlinger doesn’t think alcohol abuse gets the attention it deserves. He says illegal drugs often steal the spotlight, though alcohol is having a greater impact.

The Health Commissioner points to binge drinking — defined as consuming four to five drinks on one occassion — as the biggest problem. In this study, binge drinking accounted for more than 75 percent of the costs.

“It will continue to be a problem until we do something about it,” he said.

Ehlinger says raising liquor prices causes consumption to go down, along with banning Sunday sales, keeping it out of grocery stores and gas stations, and cutting back on marketing.

“We know that if we decrease it like we did tobacco, alcohol use will go down,” he said. “We don’t show people it has some negative consequences,” Ehlinger said.

The Centers for Disease Control also found just how deadly alcohol can be. 88,000 people die each year from excessive alcohol consumption across the country. The report said one in ten deaths among working-age Americans can be blamed on alcohol.

Liz Collin

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