A new study from Canada has revealed that targeted intervention and policy initiatives can significantly lower the economic burden of alcohol abuse.
During the study, the team led by Dr. Jurgen Rehm, CAMH Senior scientist estimated that the potential economic impact of increasing alcohol taxation, lowering the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) legal limit from 0.08 per cent to 0.05 percent, zero tolerance BAC for all drivers under age 21, increasing the legal minimum drinking age from 19 to 21 years of age, a Safer Bars intervention, and brief interventions (routine screening with concise advice for problematic alcohol users by primary care physicians or other health professionals).
They found that implementing all six interventions could reduce productivity losses by more than 58 pct of the total avoidable cost due to alcohol. It can also decrease health care costs by nearly 24 per cent.
It can also lower criminality costs by almost 18 per cent.
The most effective intervention to reduce avoidable costs in health care, criminality and productivity losses was the brief interventions with 62 per cent of total savings,
Moreover, increasing alcohol taxes would save more than 211 million dollars per year.
Lowering the BAC level resulted in a 19 per cent reduction in the total cost of alcohol abuse.
The Safer Bars program was the most effective measure to avoid homicide and other violent crimes, more than 3 per cent reductions were estimated.
Brief interventions were the most effective measure to avoid other alcohol-attributable criminal activities (e.g., property crime), resulting in an almost 3 per cent reduction in these types of crimes.
"It's clear that the largest impact would come from interventions affecting the level of drinking in general such as brief interventions and increasing alcohol taxation," says Dr. Rehm.
"However, the greatest overall cost avoidance would be achieved when multiple rather than single effective and cost-effective alcohol interventions are implemented as part of a comprehensive alcohol policy."
The analysis also showed that substantial increases in direct and indirect costs would occur if Canadian provinces were to privatize alcohol sales.
Dr. Rehm said, "this study shows the benefits potentially available to the community as a whole by directing public resources to specific policies, strategies and programs. It also helps identify information gaps, target problems, and identify potential solutions."