Alcohol is Now Responsible For More Than 95,000 Deaths Per Year
There is the elephant in the room that isn’t being talked about, i.e., the severe issue of excessive drinking in the United States. While it is understandable that so much attention has been placed on the Opioid Epidemic, I find it a little odd that very little attention has been placed on the Alcohol Epidemic that has been going on for years.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 69,710 people died because of opioids in the United States during 2020, while 95,000 people died from an alcohol-related death in the same year. While they are both severe issues, only one of the problems seems to be receiving much attention.
The following quote has been taken from the CDC website to help better describe the severity of this situation.
“Excessive alcohol use is responsible for more than 95,000 deaths in the United States each year, or 261 deaths per day.”
“Excessive alcohol use is responsible for more than 95,000 deaths in the United States each year, or 261 deaths per day. These deaths shorten the lives of those who die by an average of almost 29 years, for a total of 2.8 million years of potential life lost. It is a leading cause of preventable death in the United States, and cost the nation $249 billion in 2010.”
So how is that a drug killing so many people every year is receiving such little media attention? While it makes sense that a lot of focus would be placed on the opioid epidemic, it seems suspicious that the news channels aren’t talking about all the people who are dying from alcohol. I guess that while alcohol is costing the United States thousands of lives every year, it is also generating billions of tax dollars. The billions of dollars worth of alcohol sales could be one of the reasons it hasn’t been a hot topic lately.
According to statista.com, “In 2020, revenue from alcohol tax in the United States amounted to 9.49 billion US dollars. Furthermore, the forecast predicts an increase in alcohol tax revenue up to 9.53 billion US dollars in 2026.” Now that is a lot of money! But, unfortunately, cash speaks in a capitalist society, and sometimes this is not for the better.
The other issue that comes up with alcohol is that it is legal and easily accessible. While it is evident that prohibition didn’t work, it seems we may have gone to the other extreme as a society by having a culture that glorifies drinking and downplays the negative impacts even moderate alcohol can create. Alcohol advertisements can be seen on television, in magazines, on billboards, ... really the list goes on and on.
Thinking about all of this can very quickly send a person into a downward spiral of apathy. Sometimes when things seem so resistant to change, it feels easier to give up. But, unfortunately, giving up never solves anything, so what are some things we can do to help address this grave issue that doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon? Well, here are just a few of the things we can do as a society to begin working on this widespread problem.
Get rid of alcohol advertisements.
There isn’t a need for alcohol advertisements other than to make alcohol companies more money. While it is understandable that companies want to make money, companies that do so at the expense of other people’s health and wellbeing shouldn’t be allowed to place public ads. People who are going to drink will drink; they don’t need an ad to do so; the people who will drink because of an ad they saw are the ones who may not have done so otherwise. Alcohol companies will do just fine without advertisements. Hopefully, with fewer ads, fewer people will choose to drink.
Improve drug education for children.
Growing up, I remember taking a DARE class in 5th grade and learning a little bit about addiction in my ninth-grade health class, but that was about it. The courses primarily focused on illegal street drugs and hardly went over alcohol at all. Drug education needs to be an ongoing process throughout the education system and should also be more in-depth when teaching about the health effects of all drugs, not just illicit drugs.
Teach children the real dangers of drinking alcohol.
By giving children a more realistic perspective on what alcohol does, we may begin to curb the rate of alcohol misuse in the United States. Most people do not think of alcohol as a drug. Far too many people don’t think of alcohol as the poison that it is. Alcohol is a known carcinogen that kills thousands of people every year; let’s get honest about what it is and the natural consequences of drinking.
Create social health campaigns to educate adults better.
With all of the anti-tobacco campaigns that have been around, there has been a decrease in smoking. While there are still people who smoke, it has become a lot less popular, and the rates of active smokers have gone down over time. Now imagine what could be achieved if we applied the same tactics to alcohol that were applied to tobacco. They both kill people and cause cancer, so why not let people know this.
Improve access to quality treatment.
A major contributing factor to people being stuck in addiction is a lack of access to quality treatment. Treatment needs to become more accessible to everyday people. All insurance plans should have to help cover addiction treatment, not just some of them. The other thing that is important to note is that not all treatment programs are created equal; people need to access quality treatment to help them get sober and stay sober.
Change the narrative when it comes to alcohol.
What if we can create a mind shift when it comes to the societal idea of alcohol? What if instead of treating alcohol like something harmless and needed to have a good time, we treated it like the toxic poison it is? Alcohol would then become less appealing to the general public. So let’s start treating alcohol for what it is, a highly addictive and dangerous drug.
Stop glorifying drinking.
If the United States could stop the glorification of binge drinking, this would go a long way to help cut back on the misinformation that children received from an early age about alcohol. Alcohol is usually portrayed as harmless fun, and the adverse side effects are not discussed very much. If we could cut back on movies and TV shows that depict alcohol as a carefree, fun time, this could help change the perspective on the drug.
Respect people who choose not to drink.
As someone who has quit drinking altogether because of the negative impact of alcohol on my life, I can tell you that it was the best decision I ever made. However, I can also tell you that I have been met with criticism and judgment because I stopped drinking. While most people have been very supportive in this journey, others have been judgmental. If we began to normalize a sober lifestyle, more people would be open to giving it a try.
Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, MCAP, RAS