The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism is raising an alarm about the dangers of alcohol consumption. In a report issued Friday, the agency found that the number of death certificates in the U.S. that mentioned alcohol more than doubled between 1999 and 2017. Nearly 1 million people died in the U.S. from alcohol-related causes during that period.
Excessive alcohol consumption is a concern across the country and something Oklahomans should take especially seriously. The state ranked 11th in alcohol poisoning deaths in 2011/2012 and 7th in the nation for binge drinking in 2016.
There are human and economic costs.
A 2013 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said excessive alcohol consumption was costing Oklahoma $2.4 billion due to lost productivity, healthcare expenses and crime.
From tailgating on college game days to “wine moms” on social media to the trend of enjoying boozy brunches on the weekend, our popular culture and social lives are increasingly alcohol-soaked.
Perhaps we should reconsider that.
“Alcohol is not a benign substance and there are many ways it can contribute to mortality,” NIAAA Director Dr. George F. Koob said in the report. “The current findings suggest that alcohol-related deaths involving injuries, overdoses and chronic diseases are increasing across a wide swath of the population. The report is a wakeup call to the growing threat alcohol poses to public health.”
Although men have traditionally led women in alcohol consumption and the health impacts from that overconsumption, women are catching up in an example of the least desirable kind of gender parity.
The rates of death involving alcohol increased for women by 85% during the NIAAA study period, as compared to a 35% increase for men.
That narrowing is a cause for concern because women seem to be at greater risk than men for alcohol-related cardiovascular disease, liver disease, alcohol use disorder and other consequences, according to the study.
Women are considered to be drinking excessively if they consume four alcoholic beverages in a single occasion, compared to five drinks for men. Downing the same number of drinks within two hours is classified as binge drinking.
Partaking in eight alcoholic beverages per week is considered heavy drinking for women, compared to 15 for men.
Not only do women have a lower tolerance for alcohol, it may affect them differently.
While some research has shown moderate alcohol consumption to have potential health benefits, particularly in terms of cardiovascular disease, other studies show that even one drink per day can contribute to an increased risk of breast cancer in women.
“Alcohol is a growing women’s health issue,” Koob said. “The rapid increase in deaths involving alcohol among women is troubling and parallels the increases in alcohol consumption among women over the past few decades.”
As if the reported numbers weren’t alarming enough, Koob went on to say that alcohol-related harms are increasing and probably have a greater impact than we realize because the contribution of alcohol often fails to make it onto death certificates.
It’s certainly food for thought.
We’re not saying everyone needs to become a teetotaler, but maybe it’s time to take a sober look at how much we as a society are drinking.