The White House and states like Florida have declared states of emergency in an effort to battle the widespread devastation of opioids, from which one American is killed every 16 minutes. In the meanwhile, an even bigger and more common killer is lurking in our midst. Twice as many people died from alcohol related causes, over a recent five-year period than from all types of opioids combined.
A study cited by the Journal of the American Medical Association on Psychiatry noted that abuse by high-risk drinkers has increased by 30% over a ten year period. It’s estimated that as many as 30 million people might be affected, as compared to 2.6 million who struggle with opioid or heroin addiction. Disturbingly, a 2007 report by Duke University suggested that as many as 24 million people had an average of 10 drinks per day. Also alarming, is that much of the increase is concentrated in three groups previously least impacted: minorities, women and the elderly.
While the fast-growing opioid crisis requires an extraordinary commitment, we cannot let it sap all the focus and resources dedicated to addiction. Alcohol is still as big a problem as ever, warranting equal awareness and action.
Alcohol Consumption on the Rise
The International Agency for Research on Cancer, announced the results of a recent study that indicated Americans are now drinking alcohol in dramatically larger quantities than a decade earlier. Particularly troubling is that alcohol abuse itself grew at an astonishing 29 percent. This is occurring in spite of the fact that we’ve since learned that as few as two drinks per day increases the likelihood of cancer, on top of all the commonly known dangers.
Some professionals link the increase to the proliferation of reality TV shows in which personalities drink alcohol as if it was water. There’s also a concern that the perception of harm from alcohol has decreased, along with the mass legalization of marijuana. Finally, there’s a belief that increased stress from the prevalence of technology is taking a toll.
Whatever the reason, it’s a disturbing development. Perhaps it’s time the government applied the same lessons learned in the battle against tobacco addiction. Increased regulation and taxation may be just the answer to help people make healthier choices.