Alcohol-Related Deaths Soared During the Pandemic

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The pandemic did not just cause problems for the economy and school-age children, and the death count is not just connected to those who died from COVID-19. There is a new study that was led by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism that reveals the terrible impact that the pandemic isolation created in America. The results of this study were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last week and information from the study was distributed to the public by The New York Times.

According to The Times, this pandemic caused an increase in death across the country among people who have substance-abuse problems. Binge drinking increased and there were many more emergency room visits for alcohol withdrawal.

Experts leading this new study searched through death certificates and found those that indicated that alcohol was an underlying or contributing cause for the death. They discovered that there were 99,000 people who suffered an alcohol-related death in 2020. That is over a 25% increase over 2019.

If fact, there were more adults under 65 that died from alcohol-related factors than those same-aged adults who died from COVID-19 in 2020.

The number of people who die from alcohol-related deaths has been increasing over the last two decades. But that increase is typically only a little over 3 percent. These deaths include alcohol poisoning, liver disease, and accidents with people under the influence. The number of these deaths in 2019 was 78,927 and it spiked dramatically in 2020 to 99,017.

The study has shown that people were drinking more alcohol during the pandemic, and it was likely due to the need to manage pandemic-related stress. Other reasons for this tragic increase could be the disruption of programs that treated substance abuse issues and the inability people may have had to connect with their support networks.

Aaron White, a senior scientific adviser at the institute and the study’s first author, said that one could assume that there were lots of people who were in recovery but did not have the same access to their support and, so, they relapsed.

“Stress is the primary factor in relapse, and there is no question there was a big increase in self-reported stress, and big increases in anxiety and depression, and planet-wide uncertainty about what was coming next. That’s a lot of pressure on people who are trying to maintain recovery.,” he shared with The New York Times.

One of the most interesting findings in this new study was that research indicated that alcohol-related deaths increased across all age brackets, but there was one age bracket that was affected the most. Those who were 35 to 44 years old had the highest rate of alcohol-related deaths. This group was not at high risk for COVID-19 related deaths.

According to the study, “Rates increased for all age groups, with the largest increases occurring for people aged 35 to 44 years (from 22.9 to 32.0 per 100 000 [39.7%]) and 25 to 34 years (from 11.8 to 16.1 per 100 000 [37.0%]). Increases in rates were similar for females (from 13.7 to 17.5 per 100 000 [27.3%]) and males (from 42.1 to 52.6 per 100 000 [25.1%]).”

The CDC does not have information available for 2021, but researchers looked at the provisional data and found that Jan. 2021 was the month with the highest number of alcohol-related deaths between Jan. 2019 and June 2021. So, 2021 might actually be even worse than 2020 and tensions continue to rise over issues like war and inflation.