Alcohol is killing more adults in the U.S. than the opioid epidemic according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. The opioid epidemic kills an average of 72,000 people per year, while alcohol kills 88,000. In those 88,000 deaths are 2.5 million years of potential life lost, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
The surge of alcohol related deaths is new. In ten years, the number of deaths by alcohol have increased 35 percent according the new report shared by USA Today on Friday. The statistics are based on findings from 2007 to 2017.
Most affected by the rising alcohol epidemic are young women. Among women, deaths rose 67 percent, while for men, the percentage rose only 27 percent.
Women are more susceptible to alcohol-related risks because they typically weigh less than men, and can feel the effects of alcohol faster, according to the National Institute on Alcohol and Abuse and Alcoholism. The complications that most affect women who drink excessively are Liver Damage, Heart Disease, Breast Cancer and complications with pregnancy.
According to a survey by the Institute in 2015, 9.3 percent of women surveyed drank alcohol while pregnant in the month before taking the survey. 51.1 percent of women drank alcohol in general, 22 percent of them engaging in binge drinking in the month prior. 61.3 percent of men drank in the month prior to the survey, and 32.1 percent binge drank.
5.4 percent of the female drinkers received help for an alcohol disorder, while 7.4 percent of men did.
Teen drinking deaths rates are down 16 percent, while drinking deaths for those between the ages of 45 and 64 increased about 25 percent.
The deaths associated with over-drinking are not necessarily instantaneous. Many of the causes lie in issues developed over time from excessive drinking, like liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis, cancer and suicide.
In terms of location, the District of Columbia tops the list for most alcohol deaths. It’s followed by Georgia and Alabama. States with lower alcohol control policies, like Nevada, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota and Wyoming, have higher rates of binge drinking than those with stricter restrictions.
Psychologist Benjamin Miller questioned why, while alcohol deaths rise above opioid fatalities, we still embrace drinking as a culture. “Culturally, we’ve made it acceptable to drink but not to go out and shoot up heroin," Miller said. "A lot of people will read this and say 'What's the problem?'”