Commercial Value of Underage & Pathological Drinking

    Published: November 2013

    Alcohol 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.

    Key Takeaways

    In 2001, the alcohol industry earned between $48.3 and $62.9 billion from underage and adult pathological drinking, a value representing 37.5%-48.8% of total consumer expenditures. Other key findings include the following:

    • Individuals who engaged in pathological and underage drinking made up 25.9% of the American population, but consumed 47.3% of all alcohol consumed by underage drinkers.
    • Adult pathological drinkers made up 9.6% of the American population, but consumed 25% of all alcohol consumed by adult drinkers.


    • 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

    Research Methods

    This report is based on analyses of prevalence data from several national data sets, as well as alcohol consumption data from the alcohol industry.


    November 2013