America has an alcohol problem, but our country’s overdose crisis has taken attention away from our national hangover.
It is time to focus on this long neglected problem.
Drug overdose deaths increased nearly 30% in 2020 to 93,000, according to preliminary statistics published in July by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But about 95,000 people die each year from alcohol-related causes, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Alcohol is the third preventable cause of death in the United States.
As we observe National recovery month Throughout September, it is important to recognize the extent of alcohol addiction in the United States and to help those with alcohol use disorders. The well-being of our nation is at stake.
Americans are too alcoholics
No wonder people want to drown their sorrows. The pandemic has devastated so many families. This created enormous stress and economic uncertainty. It has caused widespread fear, anguish and unnecessary political battles. When we thought we had COVID-19 under control, the delta variant arrived.
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A national survey commissioned by the American Psychological Association in February found that nearly one in four adults said they drank more last year to manage stress.
General alcohol consumption increased by 39% from February 2020 to November, According to a new study by the nonprofit RTI International research institute and funded by the NIAAA. Excessive alcohol consumption increased by 30% over the same period.
Over 14 million adults people aged 18 and over suffered from alcohol use disorders in 2019, according to the NIAAA.
Here is our challenge – we have normalized alcohol consumption. Happy hours at our favorite watering holes, barbecues, weddings, birthday parties, baseball games and tailgating, you name it – we find plenty of opportunities to enjoy it. Or three. And so often, we just embrace the moment.
Are you using opioids? You have a drug addiction problem. Are you drinking too much? You like to have a good time.
But alcohol addiction poses a more insidious threat than we are willing to acknowledge – to our health, our families and our livelihoods. For women and minorities, this is an even greater threat.
The RTI International study found that the largest increases in average drinking occurred among women with children under age 5 (323%), black women (173%), black men (173%), and Hispanic women ( 148%).
It’s time to sober up America
Unfortunately, alcohol use disorders are a difficult topic to discuss in America. Alcohol consumption remains widely accepted and alcohol is easy to obtain. The widespread availability of alcohol, coupled with smart marketing, makes it almost impossible to avoid. Consumers must constantly fight the temptation – not to mention the expectation – to raise their glass.
This is America, and the party never ends. And dangerous opioids like fentanyl are gaining the attention of public health officials.
Alcohol is no less dangerous. It’s just permissible, ubiquitous, and socially acceptable. The liquor dealers control the narrative. Good luck in persuading consumers to cut back on alcohol without sounding reactionary.
It’s hard to change the narrative, but too many Americans get drunk to death. It’s time to sober up, America.
There are many resources available to provide assistance to people with alcohol use disorders as well as parents and practitioners, including:
âºThe National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, which has a free website called Rethinking alcohol consumption who can help you find doctors, therapists, support groups, and other ways to get treatment for a drinking problem.
âºResponsibility.org, which provides information and education aimed at eliminating drunk driving.
âºSTOP drinking in minors interagency portal, the Interagency Coordinating Committee on Prevention of Alcohol Use among Minors.
Chuck Ingoglia, MSW, is the President and CEO of the National Council for Mental Well-being.