By L.A. Williams
Christian Action League
March 23, 2022
Not only have Americans been drinking more during the Covid-19 pandemic, but more Americans are dying alcohol-related deaths. A January study showed excessive drinking had risen by 21 percent since Covid began. Now, new research shows an even larger 25.5 percent jump in alcohol-related deaths during the pandemic’s first year.
“Deaths involving alcohol reflect hidden tolls of the pandemic,” wrote researchers in the March 18 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. “Increased drinking to cope with pandemic-related stressors, shifting alcohol policies, and disrupted treatment access are all possible contributing factors.”
The Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League, says the shifting alcohol policies cannot be overlooked.
“Governments in recent years have removed guardrails in law that work to curb alcohol-related harms,” Creech said. “I know this is true for North Carolina. In recent legislative sessions, lawmakers have made huge reforms in alcohol policy that they say are simply modernizing a Prohibition-era antiquated system of alcohol sales and delivery. But ‘modernizing’ is really code for giving Big AL and his powerful lobby whatever they want to increase business, without equal concern for preserving public health and safety.”
Creech said because alcohol is legal, many refuse to realize that it is not an ordinary commodity, but is inherently dangerous.
“Having that cloud hanging over your product is something Big Al knows will precipitate a stormy bottom line. Remove the guardrails, then you remove the caution. Tear down the caution, normalize it like you would soda-pop, make it seem socially positive, empowering, delightful, fun, and consumption goes up, up, up, for a host of reasons, one of which is certainly as a stress reliever.”
The recently released research, based on mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed that the number of alcohol-related deaths went from 78,927 to 99,017. Among people between ages 35 and 44, the rate jumped nearly 40 percent and was up 37 percent for those ages 25-34.
“This is a sharp incline from prior years,” CNN pointed out in reference to the 25-percent hike. “The average annual percent increase in deaths involving alcohol was 2.2 percent between 1999 and 2017.”
Aaron White, lead author of the study and a neuroscientist at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told the media the study results were not unexpected. Researchers knew in advance that alcohol sales had gone up 3 percent across the nation, the biggest jump in a half century.
“It’s not uncommon for people to drink more when they’re under more duress, and obviously, the pandemic brought a lot of added stress to people’s lives. In addition to that, it reduced a lot of the normal outlets people have for coping with stress, [like] social support and access to gyms,” White said.
The New York Times pointed out that among adults younger than 65, alcohol-related deaths actually outnumbered deaths from Covid-19 in 2020 (74,408 from alcohol-related causes; 74-075 from the virus). Plus, the rate of increase for alcohol deaths in 2020 outpaced the rate of increase of deaths from all causes, which was 16.6 percent.
To further put the loss of life into perspective, Alcohol Review journalist Phil Cain pointed out “not far shy of an extra 20,000 Americans died alcohol-induced deaths during the pandemic compared to a normal year. That’s an O2 stadium full.”
Cain has published a breakdown of the death toll by age, gender, state and race. His charts show that alcohol-related deaths in North Carolina went up 18 percent during the pandemic’s first year.
According to Alcohol Review charts, the spike in alcohol-related deaths seems to have taken the biggest toll on biracial Americans, where the increase was 52 percent; with American Indian, Alaska native, Asian and African-American groups all trending above the 25.5 percent national average and white Americans just under the average.
Cain says the CDC is forecasting alcohol-related deaths on a similar scale for 2021.
“Time will tell whether this is accurate,” he says. “We can’t bring any one of these people back, but it would seem worthwhile to investigate the factors which led to their death.”