You won’t believe how much more alcohol has been drank during the pandemic

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Many Americans believe that a glass of wine or a beer at night is one way to reduce stress and wind down after a hard day. But how much is too much?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s (NIAAA) recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 85.6 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; 69.5 percent drank in the past year and 54.9 percent reported that they drank in the last month.

People drink to socialize, celebrate and relax and will sometimes use alcohol to self-medicate physical or emotional pain or more serious behavioral health issues. A recent study published in JAMA, found that alcohol consumption among adults increased by 14 percent from 2019 to 2020. Women, in particular, exhibited a 41 percent increase in alcohol consumption over a 2019 baseline. While the COVID-19 vaccines are giving people hope that the pandemic may soon come to an end, an increase in alcohol dependence may prove to be one of the long-term effects of this unprecedented time.

What are some of the health risks/consequences of drinking too much alcohol?

For some people drinking to excess, known as binge or high-intensity drinking can lead to significant impairments in motor coordination, decision-making, impulse control and other functions, increasing the risk of harm. In addition, continuing to drink despite clear signs of impairment can result in alcohol overdoses. Anyone who consumes too much alcohol too quickly may be in danger of an alcohol overdose, this is especially true for individuals who engage in binge drinking. For example, teenagers and young adults who often engage in binge drinking may be at particular risk for alcohol overdose.

According to the National Cancer Society, clear patterns have emerged between alcohol consumption and the development of the following types of cancer: head and neck cancer, esophageal cancer, liver cancer, breast cancer, and colorectal cancer. 

Abusive use can take a significant toll in multiple ways from increased rate of emergency visits, auto accidents, premature deaths and disabilities, and impacts on day-to-day and family life. The CDC reports that excessive alcohol use is responsible for more than 95,000 deaths in the United States every year, or 261 deaths per day. It is the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States. In 2019, of the 85,688 liver disease deaths among individuals aged 12 and older, 43.1 percent involved alcohol.

Binge drinking is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States and those who binge drink tend to do so frequently and with high intensity.

What are some treatment and prevention options?

According to the NIAAA, no matter how severe the problem may seem, most people with alcohol use disorder can benefit from some sort of treatment. Research shows that about one-third of people who are treated for alcohol problems have no further symptoms 1 year later. They will most likely need to continue outpatient treatment, join AA, obtain a sponsor and attend 90 AA meetings in 90 days. Many others substantially reduce their drinking and report fewer alcohol-related problems.

Fortunately, many of the health conditions linked to alcohol use are treatable, reversible, and not fatal. There is help and there are resources available to learn more about what you can do.

If you are concerned about your alcohol use or that of a loved one, have a conversation about it and encourage them to seek professional advice and assistance. Have the conversation about it today

To learn more OptumCare Utah now.  Call 1-866-637-5268 for more information or TTY 711.

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