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Alcohol abuse brews sobering costs

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Greg Peck
April 19, 2013

April marks Alcohol Awareness Month, a nationwide campaign designed to raise awareness of health and social problems caused by excessive drinking. Alcohol abuse affects individuals, families and communities. We hope revelers flocking to Newville for Saturday’s annual “Break in the Weather Party” drink responsibly, rely on designated drivers and will at least consider the following statistics.

A new study pegs annual costs of excessive drinking in Wisconsin at a staggering $6.8 billion. And get this—local, state and federal governments pick up almost $3 billion of that tab.

The study by First Health Wisconsin in conjunction with the UW Population Health Institute in Madison puts the costs at $2.9 billion in lost worker productivity, $1.9 billion in premature deaths, $749 million for health care, $649 million for the criminal justice system and $418 million in traffic crashes. We’re talking about human costs in 2011—the most recent data—including 1,529 deaths, 48,578 hospitalizations, 46,583 treatment admissions, 60,221 arrests and, in 2010, 5,751 traffic accidents.

What legislative proposals and changes in local rules might help curb this habit of drinking to excess? And how might Wisconsin pay for the increased costs to the justice system if it enacts tougher laws, as well as better treatment programs?

We’ll share our perspectives in our editorial Saturday.

Greg Peck can be reached at (608) 755-8278 or gpeck@gazettextra.com. Or follow him on Twitter or Facebook



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