Cost-Benefit Analysis: Alcohol Use

Most people use alcohol in ways that do not bring negative consequences into their lives. For many, Alcohol is an accepted, often expected, component of social occasions: weddings, special dinners, athletic events, BBQs, family gatherings. But alcohol is not a benign social lubricant for everyone. For some (10-20%), alcohol brings catastrophe, disorder, chaos, personal destruction, and eventually death. For most people alcohol is nothing to worry about. For others, whether to drink or not is a life or death decision.

So we are left with two broad categories of people:

  • Those who can drink with little or no negative consequences
  • Those who should not drink

Determining in which category you belong may be one of the most important decisions of your life.

A cost-benefit analysis is a great way to start thinking about your relationship with alcohol. Here is one way to think about it: what does alcohol do for you versus what has alcohol taken from you? Things it has done for you, benefits. Things it has taken from you, costs. If you find your analysis tipping heavily in the direction of costs, it may be time to rethink your relationship with alcohol. Here are some different types of benefits and costs you may have experienced in your life:


  • stress reduction
  • social lubrication
  • taste enjoyment
  • hobby


  • relationship stress
  • legal problems
  • work problems
  • hangovers


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