February 26, 2003

Public Health Implications of Excessive Alcohol Consumption

Author Affiliations

Author Affiliations: National Institute on Drug Abuse (Dr Hanson) and National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (Dr Li), National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services, Bethesda, Md.

JAMA. 2003;289(8):1031-1032. doi:10.1001/jama.289.8.1031

Abuse of alcohol and other substances continues to be one of the most serious public health problems in the United States. The use of alcohol and illicit drugs exacts a tremendous toll on productivity and destroys individuals, families, and communities. Substance abuse affects millions of individuals on a daily basis. More than 8 million US individuals meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence and an additional 5.6 million meet the diagnostic criteria for alcohol abuse.1 In addition, in 2001, approximately 66.5 million individuals were tobacco smokers and nearly 16 million used an illicit drug.2 Abuse of these substances comes with a devastatingly high price. The US economic cost of substance abuse is estimated to exceed $484 billion per year,3 including $185 billion attributable to alcohol misuse,4 nearly $138 billion attributable to smoking,5 and approximately $161 billion attributable to illicit drugs.3 Abuse of these substances accounts for more lives lost, illnesses, and disabilities than any other preventable health condition. Of the more than 2 million US deaths each year, approximately 1 in 4 is attributable to alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use.6

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