Alcohol Kills More Americans Than Opioids

In no way am I trying to diminish the ongoing opioid epidemic which warrants serious attention and action, but have you happened to see how many people are dying of alcohol abuse these days? That figure is around 88,000 per year reports USA Today, which is still higher than the 72,000 who die of drug (as in all kinds of drugs combined) overdoses.

Whatís more is that the problem is getting worse. In the past ten years, alcohol-related deaths have increased by 35 percent. We may have normalized the way we look at alcohol-related deaths, but in that weíve missed the increase in fatalities.

Another factor thatís slipped under the radar is who is doing the lethal drinking. While menís death rate from drinking is up 29 percent since 2007, itís the women who are really driving up the numbers: their death rate is up 85 percent in the same timespan.

If thereís one bit of good news in the stats, itís that the teen booze death rate has gone down by 16 percent over the past decade, though adults have more than made up for that with their own dangerous drinking.

Most of these deaths are the result of chronic, heavy drinking. The deaths are attributed to a variety of factors like liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, cancer, suicide while under the influence of booze, etc. Others donít die, but are affected nonetheless: Emergency rooms saw a 40 percent spike in patients needing treatment for binge drinking between 2008 and 2014.

Because, unlike other substances, alcohol is available for purchase on every street corner and is considered socially acceptable to consume, a lot of people donít notice the damage thatís being done. Sure, alcoholism has a stigma, but you have to be close to the individual to notice the health effects over time.

Moreover, because thereís so much money being made from alcohol, the government doesnít seem to want to touch it. If you think the way legislators are willfully ignoring opioid abuse since their donors in the pharmaceutical industry donít want to see the problem addressed, just think of what theyíre willing to overlook from an industry that makes over $70 billion in the U.S. annually and spends over $22 million in lobbying efforts.

Of course, there are things that the government can do to help curb excess drinking without making it illegal. States with the most sales restrictions and highest alcohol taxes (like Kansas, Alabama, Utah, Oklahoma and Tennessee) also have some of the lowest rates of binge drinking.

Whether more states will follow suit when alcohol is such a key component of their economies is doubtful. There may be a health crisis related to booze, but Americans decided long ago to grandfather in alcohol as a protected substance, and sadly things will probably have to get much worse before any chance occurs.

37 comments

Paulo Reeson
Paulo Reeson24 days ago

ty

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Paulo Reeson
Paulo Reeson24 days ago

ty

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Joanna M
Joanna M5 months ago

Fun fact: Only about 2% of people who are prescribed opioids develop an addiction. So why are we hurting the other 98%?

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HEIKKI R
HEIKKI R5 months ago

thank you

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Joanna M
Joanna M5 months ago

So very true! And as we legit chronic pain patients know, people who want to abuse opioids will get them illegally...the only people being hurt by laws curbing prescriptions are those of us with legit chronic pain.

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Chad A
Chad Anderson5 months ago

Thank you.

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Irene S
Irene S5 months ago

Indigenous societies manage way better to use drugs but not abuse them.

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Bill A
Bill Arthur5 months ago

Teresa W; no I would not try to prohibit any drugs. if someone chooses to abuse themselves so be it, it will improve the gene pool What I do suggest is people are honest with themselves and others and point out the dangers of all drugs including alcohol and if someone chooses to ignore those dangers then the results are on their heads only, that means the only thing illegal would be any actions that would hurt others like driving while under the influence of any drug. I am enjoying my life too much to waste even a moment under the influence of any drug.

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Sherri S
Sherri S5 months ago

I'm glad someone has finally pointed this out. Alcohol abuse is much more common. I guess the problem is opioids are lead to death very quickly, while alcoholism is a long, lingering process that consumes the person.

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Sherry K
Sherry Kohn5 months ago

Noted

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