No one really needs to be told the health benefits of being sober. The negative effects of drinking too much for too long are mostly ingrained into us from a young age, through public education and direct observation. Yet millions of Americans still struggle with alcohol use disorder (AUD).
AUD is an illness that causes irrational behavior, so a rational explanation of the downsides of alcohol is usually not enough to deter someone with the condition. In moderate and severe AUD, the urge to continue drinking will often override immediate safety concerns, and long-term consequences are almost always completely ignored.
However, that’s not to say that rationalization has no place in treating AUD and other substance use disorders. They are a critical part of cognitive-behavioral therapy and motivational interviewing, two treatment approaches widely used alongside conventional medical interventions.
One rational motive for quitting that treatment specialists at Dallas Drug Treatment Centers often find effective is money. Even when compared to better health and relationships, financial incentives can stronger and more immediate.
Understanding the cost of AUD
The cost of drinking varies according to each individual, as alcohol affects each person differently.
Some people can drink much more than others before experiencing an obvious negative impact, allowing them to avoid some of the short-term costs of alcohol misuse. The price of alcohol also fluctuates wildly depending on the specific product and the individual’s location. Some individuals are also better placed socially and economically to absorb the costs, which means that they won’t be as negatively affected as those with a lower socioeconomic status.
If you’re interested in learning just how much you’re spending on alcohol, The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) has an alcohol spending calculator that can help you better contextualize just how much of your income goes into alcohol. While this is not a diagnostic tool, people with alcohol use disorder are likely to spend several times the national average of approximately $579.
It’s worth noting that the simple dollar amount you get from the calculator also does not necessarily indicate the existence of a problem with alcohol use. Some people may simply prefer drinking much more expensive products than others. The cost of drinking also tends to increase in major cities as well.
However, if you do suspect that you are spending more than you should on alcohol, it may be a sign of an underlying problem. If your spending on alcohol is causing you problems, get in touch with a psychiatrist or other qualified mental health expert.
What expenses can you avoid?
If you’re decided you want to quit drinking, below are some major expenses you can expect to avoid:
1.) Long-term medical expenses
The chronic misuse of alcohol can lead to a wide variety of debilitating health issues. This includes several different types of cancer, cardiovascular problems, liver disease, and digestive problems. Virtually all of the illnesses caused by drinking are expensive to treat, typically several thousands of dollars more than what you could expect to spend on a six-month residential rehab program, which is already expensive, to begin with.
2.) Productivity losses
While not universal due to the existence of “high-functioning alcoholics”, most people with AUD will experience a loss of productivity that can negatively affect school and professional life.
People with AUD tend to take more sick days because of their compromised immune systems, have a lower cognitive ability and focus due to inebriation, or because of the effects of hangovers. People with AUD also tend to find it significantly harder to find steady employment or advance through their careers. Cumulatively, this often results in the loss of income for most people with advanced AUD.
3.) Day-to-day spending
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household spent about $579 on alcohol in 2019, representing about under 1% of the median income. With the pandemic pushing up alcohol consumption rates, we could reasonably expect this to be somewhat higher in 2020 and 2021.
We could also expect a single person with alcohol use disorder to spend anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000 a year on alcohol alone. This expense will tend to comprise a much larger portion of their income, especially when taking in productivity losses. This means every year a person with AUD drinks costs about as much as it would take to have them enter a residential rehab facility here in North Texas.
Sobriety helps your bank account
Left untreated, AUD has the potential to irreparably destroy your finances. People who quit drinking successfully tend to be more financially stable, and they can reap immediate monetary rewards within weeks of ceasing alcohol use.
Even if quitting alcohol completely is not your goal, it should be understood that the money that you spend on drinks can be quite substantial, over time. If you have problems balancing your finances, cutting back on alcohol is one of the better ways to do it. Good luck, and stay sober!