Alcoholism Causes More Deaths Than Opioid Overdoses
President Trump recently announced plans to declare the opioid epidemic a national emergency, after being urged by the White House Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, and with good reason—illegal and legal opioids kill one American every 16 minutes. However, even more deaths are caused by the abuse of another substance, which is more common: alcohol.
Between 2006-2010, an average of 106,765 Americans died from alcohol-related causes, including liver disease, alcohol poisoning and drunk driving. This is more than twice the number of overdoses from all drugs, and more than triple the number of opioid overdoses in 2015.
A recent study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, New York State Psychiatric Institute and Columbia University compared American drinking habits in 2001-2002 with those in 2012-2013. According to the study, “high-risk” drinking (women drinking more than four drinks in a day during any given week, or men drinking more than five) increased by 30%.
The DSM-IV is a psychiatric handbook that uses questions such as “in the past year, have you found that drinking—or being sick from drinking—often interfered with taking care of your home or family?” is used to diagnoses alcoholism. Tt was discovered that the percentage of Americans who met its criteria for alcohol-use disorder, or AUD, went from 8.5% in 2001-2002, to 13% in 2012-2013—or nearly 30 million people. Meanwhile, prescription opioid and heroin addictions are at 2.6 million.
Alcoholism is increasing the most among the elderly and certain minority groups, while opioid overdoses are killing more white males than any other group. According to Bridget Grant, an NIAAA epidemiologist, the rise in drinking is likely due to different causes of stress. While the opioid epidemic is critical, taking action against alcoholism is just as important.
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