The Economic Impact of Alcohol on Teenagers in Colorado: A Comprehensive Overview

Alcohol consumption among teenagers in Colorado has significant economic implications that ripple across various sectors including healthcare, education, criminal justice, and productivity. This blog post delves into these aspects, providing a detailed analysis of how underage drinking not only affects the individuals involved but also imposes a substantial burden on the state’s economy.

Healthcare Costs

One of the most direct economic impacts of teenage alcohol consumption is on healthcare expenses. Excessive drinking leads to a range of health issues, from acute injuries to long-term diseases. According to a study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI), the direct medical costs attributable to excessive alcohol use are staggering. For teenagers, these costs manifest as emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and long-term medical care for alcohol-related injuries and illnesses. The study estimates that the additional medical spending due to alcohol-related conditions can be as high as $14,918 per person annually for those with commercial insurance.

Educational Impact

The repercussions of teenage drinking on education are profound. Alcohol use among teenagers is associated with higher rates of absenteeism, poor academic performance, and increased dropout rates. This not only affects the immediate educational outcomes for these individuals but also their long-term career prospects and earning potential. The Colorado Health Institute reports that high school students who consume alcohol are more likely to experience academic problems compared to their non-drinking peers. This educational derailment contributes to lower lifetime earnings and, consequently, a reduced economic contribution.

Criminal Justice System

Teenage drinking significantly impacts the criminal justice system in Colorado. The legal repercussions of underage drinking, such as arrests for driving under the influence (DUI) or public intoxication, involve considerable costs in terms of law enforcement, legal proceedings, and juvenile detention services. The website of a Boulder defense attorney highlights the severe penalties imposed on underage DUI, which include fines, license suspension, and mandatory education and treatment programs—all funded at the offender’s expense. Moreover, the broader implications include increased police patrols and court cases, which strain the state’s resources.

Productivity Losses

The broader economic impact of teenage alcohol consumption includes significant productivity losses. These losses manifest as reduced workforce participation and lower productivity due to alcohol-related health problems and criminal justice issues. According to a comprehensive review in the journal “Pharmacoeconomics,” about 61.2% of the societal costs attributed to alcohol use are due to productivity losses. For teenagers, this might translate into reduced part-time work capabilities, lower performance in school-related activities, and diminished future job prospects.

Addressing the Issue

The state of Colorado has recognized the need to address the excessive use of alcohol among teenagers and has implemented several strategies aimed at reducing these impacts. These include stricter enforcement of existing alcohol laws, educational programs targeting teenagers, and community initiatives designed to decrease the availability of alcohol to underage individuals. However, the persistent high rates of alcohol consumption among Colorado’s youth suggest that more comprehensive measures might be necessary to mitigate these economic impacts effectively.


The economic impact of alcohol on teenagers in Colorado is a multifaceted issue that affects healthcare, education, the criminal justice system, and productivity. The costs associated with underage drinking highlight the need for continued efforts to reduce alcohol use among teenagers. By addressing this issue, Colorado can not only improve health and safety for its young residents but also alleviate the economic burden on the state’s economy.