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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

UNC: Alcohol Problems Cost Baltimore More Than $2 Per Drink

A new study from researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Boston University estimates that health and safety problems attributable to alcohol use cost $582.3 million in Baltimore City in 2013 — the equivalent of approximately $2.04 per drink.

The study included costs from lost productivity; health care costs for chronic diseases such as liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, hypertension and stroke, as well as acute outcomes such as traffic crashes and falls; and costs of services such as police, emergency transport, fire and rescue, and special education needed by children born with alcohol-related birth defects.

Of the total, governments (city, state and federal) paid 38.6 percent or $224.5 million. For example, Baltimore City spent $61.0 million on direct costs like health care, police services, emergency transports and special education that resulted from alcohol use in 2013 — the same year the city had a $48 million budget deficit.

“Cities are constantly making decisions about alcohol — what new outlets to allow, how long they can be open and so on,” said lead study author Dr. Pamela J. Trangenstein, an assistant professor of health behavior at the University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health. “But they are doing this without having the whole picture — previous studies of alcohol’s burden in Baltimore missed more than half the outcomes that alcohol can cause. It’s hard to make good decisions with incomplete data.”

While data on the burden and costs of alcohol are available at the state and national level (PDF), this study is the first to estimate the costs for a city in the United States. It also offers a straightforward model for other cities, using currently available data such as electronic health records and police records.

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