Alcohol - The Number 1 Problem

Often overlooked as a dangerous drug because it is sold legally, alcohol continues to cause more personal and public damage than any other mood-altering substances in America. We support regulation of alcohol advertising, increases in alcohol taxes and a number of other initiatives aimed at discouraging use, preventing problems, and supporting those who seek help.

Alcohol is by far the most used drug with almost 137 million Americans reporting current use in the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Of those 137 million, 60 million Americans reported binge drinking in the previous month and 16.5 million reported “heavy” alcohol use (5 or more binge episodes in the previous month).

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 88,000 Americans die each year as a result of excessive alcohol use. The CDC says one in 10 deaths among working-age adults is due to excessive drinking, and it costs the country more than $220 billion a year.

Unfortunately, alcohol is ubiquitous in American culture, celebrated more than discouraged. We agree with the CDC that to address excessive drinking, we must address the culture by creating policies, communities and environments that discourage drinking more and promote it less.  We feel the policies and practices that have reduced tobacco use by more than 50% in the past 50 years offer some guidance on effective approaches.

Specifically, we endorse alcohol tax increases, which discourage use by raising prices and which provide government dollars that can be used to fund prevention, treatment and recovery resources.

We support regulation of alcohol advertising to limit its reach and to ban it on some mediums.

We support bans on alcohol sales and use in some public places and applaud retailers who voluntarily decide to stop selling alcohol (as pharmacy CVS did with tobacco in 2014).

We oppose the approval of new products like the powdered alcohol known as “palcohol.”

We support regulation of alcohol outlet density to prevent the concentration of bars and liquor stores in some areas, and we oppose attempts to repeal government control of retail alcohol sales.

We support laws that hold alcohol retailers liable for harms caused by illegal service to intoxicated or underage customers. We endorse the initiation or increase of compliance checks at bars, restaurants and liquor stores for laws prohibiting the sale of alcohol to minors. We also support the maintenance of existing limits on the days and hours that alcohol can legally be sold or served.

We support mass media campaigns that encourage drinkers to quit, similar to the CDC’s 2012 anti-smoking campaign, which cost $48 million but persuaded 100,000 people to quit smoking - just $480 for each smoker who quit and $393 per year of life saved.

And, finally, we encourage more routine alcohol misuse screening and counseling interventions in primary care settings.