Commercial Value of Underage & Pathological Drinking | Center on Addiction

The Commercial Value of Underage and Pathological Drinking to the Alcohol Industry

The Commercial Value of Underage and Pathological Drinking to the Alcohol Industry

Published: May 2006

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Alcohol abuse and addiction cost the nation an estimated $220 billion in 2005—more than cancer ($196 billion) or obesity ($133 billion). The alcohol industry’s enormous financial interests in underage drinking and pathological drinking are impediments to curbing these risky and costly behaviors.


This white paper included analyses of prevalence data from several national data sets, as well as alcohol consumption data from the alcohol industry.


The combined value to the alcohol industry in 2001 of  underage drinking and adult pathological drinking (behaviors that meet the clinical DSM­-IV criteria for alcohol abuse or dependence) was between $48.3 billion and $62.9 billion (37.5%–48.8%) of total consumer expenditures for its products, according to the latest data available at the time of analysis.

 Other key findings included:

  • The 25.9% of individuals engaged in underage drinking who were pathological drinkers consumed 47.3% of the alcohol consumed by underage drinkers
  • The 9.6% of adult pathological drinkers consumed 25% of all the alcohol drunk by adult drinkers


CASAColumbia’s investigation disclosed the financial stake of the alcohol industry in maintaining underage drinking and adult pathological drinking despite the tremendous health, social and financial costs of these behaviors. This stake represents a profound conflict of interest with the nation’s public health.


The report makes these recommendations:

  • Regulate the alcohol industry’s advertising and marketing practices
  • Mount a public health campaign to educate the public about the dangers of underage drinking and of adult pathological drinking
  • Educate health care providers to recognize the signs and symptoms of substance abuse and know how to respond
  • Ensure availability of comprehensive prevention and treatment programs tailored to the needs of teens and adults
  • Require that insurance companies, including Medicare and Medicaid, extend coverage for treatment comparable to other health and mental health conditions

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