More Americans are Dying from Alcohol Abuse Than from Opioids

More Americans are Dying from Alcohol Abuse Than from Opioids

While everyone's attention has been focused on the opioid epidemic, studies show that alcohol-related deaths have risen 35 to 50 percent over the past 10 to 15 years, bringing total alcohol deaths to nearly 90,000 a year.

By comparison, opioid-related deaths hover somewhere around 50,000, while multidrug poisonings exceed 72,000 - far less than alcohol.

One new study, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, found a startling statistic that no one was expecting. From 2007 to 2017, alcohol-related deaths among men rose 29 percent, but alcohol-related deaths among women skyrocketed 85 percent.

It's always been assumed that men drink far more, and suffer more side-effects of chronic alcohol consumption than women. That assumption is no longer valid.

More women in the ER

An article in USA Today reports that a study of binge drinking from 2008 to 2014, published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, found that the rate of ER visits involving "acute alcohol consumption" rose nearly 40 percent. The study found that the largest increases in ER visits for complications of binge drinking were among the middle aged - especially women.

The good news was that ER visits from teenage binge drinkers had declined. But older drinkers frequently suffered from numerous alcohol-related complications, the kind that present serious difficulties for emergency treatment.

"Their often bulbous bellies need to be drained of fluid, which builds up from liver cirrhosis, and their lungs cleared of aspirated vomit," Dr. Anthony Marchetti told USA Today. Dr.Marchetti, an emergency room doctor at Upson Regional Medical Center in Thomaston, Georgia, added that such patients "might also have brain hemorrhages or internal bleeding because booze prevents their blood from clotting properly."

Long-term drinking can also lead to heart failure in middle age, Dr. Marchetti said. Other complications might be infections due to immune suppression, alcohol-induced brain damage and dementia, stomach ulcers and even a "much higher risk of cancer."

The USA Today article also explains that while alcohol use disorder "might be a more socially acceptable addiction, alcoholism is at least three times costlier to treat than opioid addiction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it's a far more complicated midlife crisis to address."

Women have it tougher

Ali Mokdad, a professor at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, told USA Today that most alcohol related education "focuses on drunk driving," apparently ignoring many important facets that should be covered, such as the negative effects that alcohol has on personal health, professional and work life, and families. And families often include mothers who are seen as more responsible for the kids on a daily basis.

Mokdad pointed out the vast differences between men and women drinkers.

"When men crash and burn from alcohol," Mokdad said, "the spectacle is often public. They get into bar fights, get cited by police for drunk driving or lose their jobs."

It's a far different story for women, who often begin their drinking habits with an evening glass or two of wine to "de-stress from the work day - either in a professional setting, or home with young children."

Stefanie Wilder-Taylor, author of 'Sippy Cups Are Not for Chardonnay,' says that moms "aren't going to call home and say they're stopping for a couple drinks after work with friends or going to the gym to unwind" because it could make them feel like a failure as a parent.

"So they drink wine while they make dinner, which can lead to a nightly pattern of excessive drinking," she said.

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