It’s uncomfortable and unsociable to think about and discuss the risks associated with alcohol. Many people pretend they’re exempt from addiction, disease or injury. However, the most serious addictions start with only one drink. A recent government report about alcohol-related deaths in the United States found that the majority of deaths occur among working-age adults.
Led by Katherine Gonzales, the study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than two-thirds of deaths related to alcohol and 80 percent of the years of life lost are among adults between the ages of 20 and 64. Gonzales is an alcohol epidemiologist with the Michigan Department of Community Health who says that people need to understand that excessive alcohol use is similar to tobacco and physical activity in its connection with preventable death.
The study examined death rates in 11 states, finding there was an average of 1,650 deaths annually between 2006 and 2010. The researchers said that the losses could also be measured in potential years of life lost, which was reflected in a median of 43,000 years in the states examined, which included were Florida, Nebraska, North Carolina, Utah, South Dakota, North Dakota, Michigan, California, New Mexico, Virginia and Wisconsin. The researchers used death certificates and alcohol consumption data to determine the rates of death associated with alcohol consumption.
Computer models were used to analyze 54 causes of death. The team looked at how alcohol contributed to car crashes, drowning and occupational injuries, in addition to liver disease, pancreatitis, fetal alcohol syndrome and more.
There were a significantly higher number of drinking-related deaths among men. The researchers took into account diseases that were directly caused by alcohol consumption, as well as diseases in which alcohol is a contributing factor.
The highest death rate occurred in New Mexico, where there were 51 alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 residents. The lowest was Utah with 22.4 deaths per 100,000 residents.
Caucasians had a higher rate of alcohol-related deaths compared to other groups, but African Americans, Native American and Alaskan natives had higher rates of death associated with excessive alcohol consumption when compared to other segments of the population.
Janina Kean, President and CEO of High Watch Recovery Center, a drug treatment center located in Connecticut, notes that poverty plays a significant role in addiction as there’s exposed to drugs and alcohol in that community.
Kean also points out that the general public does not understand addiction as a brain disease. Instead, they treat addictions differently than heart disease or cancer. Individuals with physical ailments are not blamed for their diagnosis, but those with addictions still suffer from the stigma. This can be illustrated by the fact that only 11 percent of those with an addiction are treated, while 73 percent diabetics get treatment.
Dr. Robert Glattner believes that community-based strategies are the best option for addressing the high rates of preventable death due to alcohol consumption. Glattner is an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital located in New York City.
Glattner endorses ideas like holding responsible those retailers that sell alcohol to intoxicated individuals or minors. He also supports increasing alcohol prices and reducing the number of alcohol sales licenses.