Study: Alcohol tops tobacco, drug abuse in economic cost to Wyoming

2013-05-02T08:00:00Z Study: Alcohol tops tobacco, drug abuse in economic cost to WyomingBy JOAN BARRON Star-Tribune capital bureau Casper Star-Tribune Online

Wyoming men who are alcohol-dependent earn about 5 percent less than co-workers who don’t have a problem with alcohol.

They also are somewhat less likely to be in the workplace at all.

These are two of the findings from a report compiled by the University of Wyoming Survey and Analysis Center for the Wyoming Department of Health.

The UW report concluded that alcohol is more of an economic burden on society in Wyoming than tobacco or drug abuse.

The study estimated that elimination of alcohol abuse would save $843 million a year, based on 2010 costs. Costs were for health care, lost productivity, crime and accidents.

Elimination of tobacco would save $689 million per year, and the elimination of illegal drugs $391 million per year. “Illness studies are routinely used by government agencies to justify and prioritize prevention, intervention, and research programs,” the report said.

Nanette Nelson, associated research scientist at the UW center, said she and her colleagues were surprised that alcohol was the most costly. “We thought we would see tobacco to be the front-runner,” she said.

Toni Cervenka of Buffalo, executive director of Prevention Management Organization of Wyoming, said her nonprofit organization will use the report to show the state Legislature that prevention programs are necessary and can save the state money in the long run.

Cervenka said she wasn’t surprised at the high economic costs of substance abuse in general.

She said she formerly worked at a mental health center and learned what substance abuse was costing families. But people believe alcohol use is acceptable, she noted.

“In moderation it’s OK. Studies have shown that in moderation, alcohol can be good for you,” Cervenka said. But abusing alcohol to the point where the imbiber can’t get to work or does show up but is not productive or has liver disease and other alcohol-related ailments is not OK.

At that point,”it’s going to cost a lot of money,” she said.

“People pretty much know that tobacco causes cancer. But it’s really not accepted that alcohol is harmful. That’s where we have to do some training,” Cervenka added.

State Sen. Charles Scott, R-Casper, is chairman of the Senate Committee on Labor, Health and Social Services. He said he wasn’t surprised at the high costs in the report.

“We’ve known all along that this state had a problem with alcohol,” Scott said. “Tobacco is a more serious problem because it’s a real killer. But it doesn’t cause the loss of productivity that alcohol does.”

Employers are aware of the problem, he said. Many, particularly those in the oil and gas business, have a policy against hiring anybody with a substance abuse problem. The railroads have had a rule for more than 100 years to prohibit employees from using intoxicants on the job.

Meanwhile, the Legislature has authorized substance abuse prevention programs and allocated substantial sums of money to run them.

Scott said he expects further discussion of the substance abuse problem in the Legislature’s budget session, which opens in February. The substance abuse prevention proponents, he said, may have to compete for money with the Medicaid and mental health programs.

Cervenka said her organization has hired professionals in every county in the state to work on the three substance abuse issues. By putting together a coalition in each county, the workers can assess what needs to be targeted locally and then use programs that have been successful elsewhere.

They may concentrate on reducing the incidence of alcohol abuse and underage drinking. The expectation is that the next survey of this type will show a reduction, Cervenka said.

Contact Joan Barron at 307-632-1244 or

Copyright 2015 Casper Star-Tribune Online. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(4) Comments

  1. JimmyHammonds
    Report Abuse
    JimmyHammonds - March 06, 2014 5:22 am

    Alcohol, tobacco and the use of psychotropic drugs have lots of consequences in families, associates and society of the person who becomes addicted. To capture there broad effects, various analysts have estimated some measures of social cost that is more than $524 billion a year. While there adverse effects on health lead people towards unnatural death. However, now people are gradually becoming aware and seeking guidance of drug rehab centers like Greenestone which is helping people with their great treatment approach to get back in a normal condition. It is important to take essential step earlier before the problems get out of the hand of such rehab centers.
  2. pappy
    Report Abuse
    pappy - May 02, 2013 12:02 pm
    Here comes the increased beer tax.
  3. supercalifragilistic
    Report Abuse
    supercalifragilistic - May 02, 2013 11:09 am
    Just out of curiosity, I wonder what the alcohol abuse is rated in Fremont County and the Reservation is at? I hear they really have a severe problem, mainly the Reservation.
  4. Pops
    Report Abuse
    Pops - May 02, 2013 9:44 am
    Less Alcohol ! ...How will we "Cowboy up?"
Untitled Document

Civil Dialogue

We provide this community forum for readers to exchange ideas and opinions on the news of the day. Passionate views, pointed criticism and critical thinking are welcome. Name-calling, crude language and personal abuse are not welcome. Moderators will monitor comments with an eye toward maintaining a high level of civility in this forum. Our comment policy explains the rules of the road for registered commenters.

If your comment was not approved, perhaps...

  1. You called someone an idiot, a racist, a dope, a moron, etc. Please, no name-calling or profanity (or veiled profanity -- #$%^&*).

  2. You rambled, failed to stay on topic or exhibited troll-like behavior intended to hijack the discussion at hand.

  3. YOU SHOUTED YOUR COMMENT IN ALL CAPS. This is hard to read and annoys readers.

  4. You have issues with a business. Have a bad meal? Feel you were overcharged at the store? New car is a lemon? Contact the business directly with your customer service concerns.

  5. You believe the newspaper's coverage is unfair. This is a forum for community discussion, and we'd rather address your concerns directly. It would be better to write the editors at, or call Editor Mandy Burton at 307-266-0545.

  6. You included an e-mail address or phone number, pretended to be someone you aren't, or offered a comment that makes no sense.

  7. You accused someone of a crime, or assigned guilt or punishment to someone suspected of a crime.

  8. Your comment is in really poor taste.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick