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Drug and Alcohol Findings. (2018) Measuring alcohol-related harm; politics and science. Drug and Alcohol Findings Hot Topic,

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Putting a price on the harm of alcohol helps the government to demand action, authorities to generate a better response to harmful drinking, and campaigners to raise awareness of the harm caused by drinking. It is, in other words, a highly small-p politically salient figure – one which can be calculated in so many different ways and under differing assumptions, that it would be surprising if its malleability were not exploited to political ends. 

National UK policy is based on the calculation that each year the adverse consequences of drinking cost society £21 billion. This figure given in the UK alcohol strategy was unpacked in the government’s response to the consultation on the strategy: alcohol-related crime cost £11 billion in England and Wales at 2010/11 prices; at 2009/10 prices, across the United Kingdom lost productivity cost £7.3 billion; and the treatment of alcohol-related illness cost the National Health Service £3.5 billion – estimates repeated by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) in its quality standards on preventing harmful alcohol use chart. The figures include some valuation of the emotional impact of alcohol-related crime (nearly £4.7 million) but not of the value to the drinkers of their diminished quality and lost years of life due to drinking or the emotional impacts on their family and other associates. They are an attempt to quantify the third-party and wider societal impacts of a drinker’s drinking, on the assumption that the drinker themself is prepared to pay in money and some loss of life and quality of life for the pleasure they gain from drinking, and therefore suffers no net loss of value……

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