As the country continues to battle the opioid crisis, we’re also contending with another, slower moving epidemic: alcohol. While opioid overdoses are responsible for roughly 72,000 people per year, according to the CDC, roughly 88,000 people die each year from alcohol – mostly through cancer, liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis and suicide.
In fact, from 2007 to 2017, deaths related to alcohol increased 35 percent and a whopping 85 percent among women, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Deaths among men also rose (to 29 percent), as did deaths of people ages 45 to 64. A positive finding: Teen deaths from alcohol were down 16 percent.
“The story is that no one has noticed this,” Max Griswold, who helped develop the alcohol estimates for the institute, told USA Today. “It hasn’t really been researched before.”
One explanation for this is that drinking alcohol is more culturally acceptable than, say, shooting heroin. For example, in our “Dangers of the Wine Mom Phenomenon” blog we touch on how the fact that more women are hitting the bottle to deal with stress has even become a bit of a joke. This is dangerous for many reasons, including the fact that women are more susceptible to alcohol-related risks, according to the NIAAA. Women typically weigh less than men and can feel the effects of alcohol faster. Plus, women are also more vulnerable to the lasting damage.
Drinking can lead to cancers along the digestive tract – from the mouth to the colon – as well as liver damage, heart disease, anxiety and depression. What’s worse, only 5.4 percent of female drinkers and 7.4 percent of men received help for an alcohol disorder, notes the NIAAA. According to Ana Moreno, Clinical Director at FRS, “There are effective evidence-based approaches to help those individuals suffering with an alcohol problem. We know treatment works but unfortunately not enough people receive the appropriate support. We need to educate people and help them understand that alcohol is just as dangerous as other substances, sometimes even more so. If we can help people understand the health risks associated with alcohol then maybe we can get them to recognize the problem and get help earlier.”
Alcoholism is also complicated because the liquor industry, which has “considerable clout with policymakers,” rejects proven approaches like increased taxes on alcohol and limits on where and when alcohol is sold, explain experts.
“It is poison, and we’re treating it like it’s something other than that because there‘s big corporate money behind it,” Attorney Lisa Smith, who has been in recovery from alcohol and cocaine addiction for a decade, told reporters. “A lot of people are getting really rich on something that is toxic to us.”
Getting Help for Alcohol Use Disorder
The longer problematic drinking persists, the more serious it becomes in the future. At Family Recovery Specialists, we can work together to create an individualized plan to help you or your loved one live a happy, healthy and alcohol-free lifestyle. To learn more about our substance abuse treatment services, call today: 305-595-7378.