If you had to guess which is deadlier,  America’s alcohol crisis or the opioid epidemic, you’d most likely choose the latter.  But, you’d be wrong.  The truth is, alcohol-related causes are responsible for more deaths each year than opioids.  Yet, the opioid epidemic dominates headlines and news reports repeatedly.  Why is that?

Surprising Statistics on Alcohol Sales

Alcohol is a legal, socially accepted method for relaxing, partying, and celebrating.  Its legal status may partially contribute to the lack of resources dedicated to ending the crisis.  For instance, the government rakes in billions of dollars in taxes on alcohol sales:

  • Revenues from alcohol excise taxes in 2019 = $9.99 billion US dollars.
  • Alcohol tax revenues will reach about $10.02 billion in 2025.

In contrast, the government makes zero tax revenues on illicit drug sales.  You can draw your own conclusions.

Alcohol Deaths vs. Opioid Deaths

Of course, the drug-related death toll is shocking.  In the past few years, fentanyl has been the cause of a significant increase in fatal overdoses. Also, the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a sharp spike in drug and alcohol-related deaths worldwide.  However, alcohol remains the leading cause of preventable deaths.

Compare the numbers for a better perspective:

  • 95,000 people died from alcohol-related problems in 2019.
  • 81,000 died from opioid-related problems in that same year.

So, with these numbers in mind, shouldn’t we declare an “alcohol epidemic” as well?  Clearly, America’s alcohol crisis deserves more attention than it’s getting.

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Is There a Link Between Opioid and Alcohol Overdoses?

Studies show that there is a link between opioid and alcohol overdoses in some cases.  For instance, more than 2 million people who abuse prescription opioids are also heavy drinkers or binge drinkers.  About 23% of people with opioid use disorder (OUD) also have an alcohol use disorder (AUD).  To look it another way, about 15% of opioid-related deaths involved alcohol.

The combined use of alcohol and drugs can be deadly because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant.  As such, it can increase the risk of respiratory depression caused by opioids or other drugs.

Why Should We Care About America’s Alcohol Crisis?

When we look at the alcohol-related death statistics, it’s hard to comprehend.  But, each of those numbers represents a real person.  They were a mother, father, son, or daughter.  Some were highly successful in the business world.  Others were hard-working American’s who used alcohol to escape the drudgery of their job. Far too many were teens who were only trying to have more fun.

Regardless of the reasons for their alcohol use, none of these people wanted to become addicted or die.  But, alcohol is highly addictive and can be hard to put down without professional help.  Unfortunately, many people are in denial about their alcohol use and won’t seek help until it’s too late.

How Can We Help?

One way to make a difference in the alcohol crisis is to change our way of thinking about alcohol use.  Our collective misperceptions and stigma surrounding alcoholism are not helping anyone.  However, changing the public’s long-held misconceptions about alcohol consumption will be an uphill battle.

You can help.  Find community events that sponsor education and prevention events and get involved.  America’s alcohol crisis affects everyone in one way or another.  So, each of us must do our part in bringing down the number of lives lost to this dreadful substance.

Also, if you know someone who is struggling with alcohol abuse, talk to them about a professional treatment program.  When they are ready to get free from the hold alcohol has on their life, they can contact us at New Beginnings.  One of our representatives will assist them in any way.