BACKGROUND: Alcohol abuse is currently considered one of the largest worldwide health problems due to its social and financial impact. OBJECTIVES: To discuss the economic and social impact of alcohol abuse and to introduce concepts related to health economics. METHODS: Literature review of articles written in Portuguese and in English (published between 1987 and 2007) stored in the MEDLINE, LILACS and Scielo databases was carried out. RESULTS: Fifty articles on economic studies and economic concepts in various areas were found, among which 15 were directly related to the social costs of alcohol abuse. The costs assessment methods and the composition of cost items were similar in all studies. CONCLUSIONS: Economic studies are new in Brazil, but are advanced in developed countries. National research on the social costs of alcohol abuse is necessary in order to promote knowledge as a means of creating and implementing public policies that are more consistent with and in alignment with the epidemiological and socioeconomic profile of the country.
Economic impact; social costs; alcohol abuse; economic concept; public policies