Alcohol Deadlier than Opioids, More Women at Risk

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With so much attention being given to the current opioid crisis, it has been easy to forget that alcohol is still responsible for many deaths. In fact, it kills more people each year than opioid overdoses through cirrhosis of the liver, cancer, pancreatitis, suicide and other causes of death linked to alcohol use.

Alcohol-related Deaths on the Rise

In the 10-year period between 2007-2017, the number of deaths attributed to alcohol jumped by 35 percent, according to an analysis conducted by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. The death rate increased by 24 percent.

The number of deaths for women climbed by 67 percent. At one time, women drank less than men. Their pattern of drinking more moderately than men helped to prevent women from heart disease, which helped to offset some of the harm presented by alcohol consumption.

Deaths among men due to alcohol consumption rose 29 percent during the same time. Teen deaths from alcohol consumption dropped by 16 percent, but deaths among adults aged 45-64 increased by about 25 percent.

Washington, DC Ranked Highest for Alcohol Deaths

The District of Columbia had the highest rate of death from alcohol in the US, according to the analysis conducted by the Institute. Georgia and Alabama ranked second and third.

The states with the strictest alcohol control policies were Alabama, Oklahoma, Utah, Kansas and Tennessee, according to researchers. These states also had the lowest rates for binge drinking in the country. The states with the weakest alcohol control policies were Nevada, South Dakota, Iowa, Wyoming and Wisconsin.

Middle-aged Drinkers Need Complex Care in ED

When a separate team of researchers looked at ER visits from 2006-2014, they found the biggest increases were among middle-aged patients. Women were especially at risk for visiting the Emergency Department for this reason. The number of teen drinkers being teen in Emergency Rooms during the same period declined.

Older people who go to the ER because of binge drinking generally need more care than simply to have their stomach pumped. Doctors are often called upon to treat complications due to a lifetime of substance abuse.

• Patients may need to have a drain inserted into the belly to drain off excess fluid buildup due to cirrhosis.
• They may need to have their lungs cleared of aspirated vomit.
• Lifelong heavy drinkers may also have internal bleeding or brain hemorrhages. Alcohol prevents blood from clotting properly.
• Middle-aged people with a history of long-term alcohol use may be living with stomach ulcers, infections from immune suppression or a specific type of dementia caused by alcohol-induced brain damage.
• Long-term alcohol use increases the odds of heart failure and puts a person at a “much higher risk” of cancer.

The attention of the public has been firmly pointed toward the 72,000 lives lost annually to the opioid epidemic. The epidemic of lives being lost to alcohol abuse, particularly in the South and in Washington, DC, hasn’t received the same level of attention. Approximately 88,000 people die every year from alcohol.