The Occupy Wall Street movement may do wonders in fighting outlandish bouts of capitalism on the upper echelons of society, but it got me thinking about egregious waste on our own ground, right here within the 99%. Let’s consider, for a moment, the question of substance use and abuse.


Our U.S. consumer culture spends $224 billion per year on excessive drinking, excess meaning over one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men (a figure that breaks down to an annual $746/year per taxpayer), according to the CDC. That figure does not include medical costs for various illnesses and disease incurred by excessive drinking.


Marijuana growers consume 1% of the electricity in the U.S., equating to an annual $5 billion in added electricity costs. According to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study:

“A single Cannabis cigarette represents 2 pounds of CO2 emissions, an amount equal to running a 100-watt light bulb for 17 hours with average U.S. electricity.”

To be fair, this is due in large part to lack of regulation for marijuana grow facilities.


The costs to treat smoking-related health problems are an annual $96 billion in the U.S., and in 2006, Americans spent an estimated $90 billion on tobacco products.

Other Illicit Drugs

The U.S. spent $63.2 billion on illegal drugs, including $37 billion on cocaine, $12 billion on heroin, in 1999.

And these billions upon billions are just the economic effects. What about those figures that are more slippery, that shy away from monetary data collection? Lives lost to drunk drivers? The childhood years stolen from kids growing up around substance abuse? Those suffering psychological damage from friends and family who use drugs? In keeping with the Occupy Wall Street spirit, it might be time to peek over our own high walls and "protest for an American Revolution."