Alcohol abuse costs every Scottish adult around £900 per year, according to a University study.
The study, from the University of York, estimated the total burden to Scotland’s public purse to be around £3.56 billion a year.
Scottish ministers want to combat the problem by introducing a minimum price for alcohol but their political opponents claim that would hit responsible drinkers.
Economists at the University estimated the costs for the year 2007 at between £2.5bn and £4.6bn, and took the midpoint of £3.56bn to come to the £900 per adult figure.
Previous research had suggested the annual cost to taxpayers was £2.2bn.
Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish Health Secretary, said: “This report, which takes a more comprehensive view than any previous study, indicates that the total cost of alcohol misuse to Scotland’s economy and society is even worse than we thought.
She added: “The time for stalling is over and the need for action is clear.”
Dr Sally Winning, deputy chairman of the British Medical Association in Scotland, said: “This new study shows that the human cost of alcohol misuse is far greater than we had even imagined and the increasing cost of treating the growing number of people drinking to excess could cripple the NHS.”
The report also suggested that the Scottish economy loses more than £865 million per year thanks to alcohol-related absenteeism, unemployment and early death.
About a million people per year, a fifth of Scotland’s population, were found to be “hazardous adult drinkers”, it also said.
The study added that the cost of alcohol-related crime is £727 million a year.
The York University report pointed out it was “important to recognise the levels of uncertainty around many of the generated costs” and that figures should only be considered as “indicative”.
In 2008 a survey showed nearly half of the Scottish public believed that the country’s alcohol habit is something to be ashamed of.
The Scottish Social Attitudes Survey showed that 51 per cent named alcohol as the drug which causes most problems for Scotland, compared with just 22 per cent blaming heroin.
In July figures showed that alcohol is linked to one in every 20 deaths in Scotland, and every three hours someone dies from an alcohol-related condition.
The figures took into account conditions which were partly attributable to alcohol unlike previous figures which only looked at those wholly attributable to drinking booze.
The figures added to the criticism of Labour’s all-day drinking laws which were introduced in England, Scotland and Wales.