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Every new day seems to bring fresh headlines about the modern-day plague of opioid addiction. There’s certainly plenty of news to report on the subject: According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, opioid overdoses kill more than 130 Americans every day. Meanwhile, abuse of prescription opioids costs the nation some $78.5 billion per year in treatment, lost productivity, and legal bills. The sharp rise of opioid deaths in the last few years has made news media, the government, and the general public sound an alarm. And rightfully so, as we see this destructive pandemic swiftly sweep across the country. It deserves urgent attention. However, we mustn’t forget that there’s another epidemic that’s even more prevalent, deeply ingrained, and destructive: the alcohol epidemic.
Facts and Figures
You’ve probably heard some of the depressing numbers associated with the opioid epidemic—but alcohol abuse statistics are even more alarming. Between 2006 and 2010, alcohol-related accidents and illnesses took the lives of some 88,000 Americans every year. The numbers rose 35 percent between 2007 and 2017, with women especially drinking more and more each year. By contrast, opioid overdoses killed around 33,000 Americans in 2016. That number represents more than half of the 64,000 overdose deaths from all drugs in 2016. But it still pales in comparison to alcohol’s annual death toll.
If alcohol is even deadlier on a societal scale than opioids—and costlier, at about $250 billion in 2010 alone—why has it escaped the spotlight? For one thing, alcohol has long been accepted not as a drug, but simply as a beverage—part of countless national cuisines and traditions, from Thanksgiving and wedding toasts to weekend barbecues and corporate networking events. Alcohol is such an established element of society that it’s largely invisible as a threat to life and health. Additionally, drinking behaviors have long been either admired (“He sure can hold his booze!”) or simply joked about (“You should have seen her last night—she was so wasted!”). As a result, the seriousness of alcohol addiction has gotten lost in the shuffle. Meanwhile, the opioid epidemic has taken center stage as the perceived national crisis.
How Alcohol Kills
Alcohol can prove deadly in a number of ways. From a health standpoint, the CDC lists liver and heart disease, mental health issues (including dementia), hypertension, stroke, and digestive disorders as just a few of the serious physical conditions related to alcohol. It also points out that, as of 2016, alcohol played a role in 28 percent of all U.S. traffic-related deaths. Most of those cases involved a drunk driver.
A Better Alternative to Traditional Treatment Methods
Alcohol is legal. And for most Americans, drinking is totally normal. That may make problem drinkers feel particularly strange about getting help—more so than they would if they were addicted to an opioid. Many people who drink more than they should aren’t even certain whether they’re addicted or not; they’d simply like to stop binging or learn how to drink less. Unfortunately, the rigors of mainstream addiction treatments such as the 12-steps and all-abstinence models can be hard to adhere to. And rehab centers are expensive, may derail the patient’s everyday schedule, and could be overkill for the patient’s actual needs.
Ria Health’s telemedicine program can help people struggling with alcohol misuse to drink less, or quit drinking entirely, without the disadvantages of older techniques. Our home-based, easy-to-use online model is based on the established science of pharmacotherapy for problem drinking. We give our members the ideal combination of control, privacy, and science-based recovery tools so they can live healthier, safer, and happier lives on their own terms. It’s an effective and very real alternative to AA and other traditional treatment methods—one that can help countless people from joining the grim statistics of an equally real alcohol epidemic.