Alcohol Worse Than Opioids?
When the truth is told, "Happy Hour" is a deadly hour. CM
Worse than opioids: Alcohol deaths soar among the middle aged, women
Alcohol kills more people each year than overdoses through cancer, liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis and suicide, among other ways.
Author: Jayne O'Donnell, USA TODAY
Published: 8:34 PM EST November 17, 2018
Updated: 8:35 PM EST November 17, 2018
The last time lawyer Erika Byrd talked her way out of an alcohol rehab center, her father took her to lunch.
"Dad, I know what alcohol has done to me," she told him that day in January 2011. "I know what it has made me do to you and mom. But that wasn’t me."
By the time she died three months later, Byrd had blocked her parents' calls because they kept having her involuntarily committed. They once had a magistrate judge hold a hearing at her hospital bed. He ordered herto undergo a month of in-patient treatment.
As opioid overdoses, which kill about 72,000 people a year, grabbed America's attention, the slower moving epidemic of alcohol accelerated, especially in Southern states and the nation's capital. About 88,000 people die each year from alcohol.
Making matters worse, alcoholism is trickier to treat – and criticize – than opioid addiction.
"Culturally, we’ve made it acceptable to drink but not to go out and shoot up heroin," Miller says. "A lot of people will read this and say 'What's the problem?' "
It might be a more socially acceptable addiction, but alcoholism is at least three times costlier to treat than opioid addiction, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And it's a far more complicated midlife crisis to address.
The proven approaches – taxes on alcohol and limits on where and when alcohol is sold – are often rejected because the liquor industry has considerable clout with policymakers.
Ron Byrd says his daughter Erika was "beautiful inside and out."
To him, there's no question about what caused her death.
That's despite the fact there was no alcohol in her system when she was found dead at home. She was so sick, Byrd says, she hadn't been able to eat or drink for days.
"The death certificate never says alcoholism," he says. "It said heart arrhythmia and heart valve disease. But nobody in our family had heart problems."
Attorney Lisa Smith has been in recovery from alcohol and cocaine addiction for a decade. The New York City woman wrote the memoir "Girl Walks Out of a Bar" and co-hosts the podcast Recovery Rocks.
Smith speaks at legal conferences and law firms such as Byrd's about the hazards of lawyers' high-stress days and booze-fueled dinners with clients. But she's fighting forces far larger than her profession.
"It is poison, and we’re treating it like it's something other than that because there‘s big corporate money behind it," she says. "A lot of people are getting really rich on something that is toxic to us."
Deaths of despair
In its Pain in the Nation report this year, the Well Being Trust called losses from drugs, alcohol, and suicide "despair deaths."
We need to rethink our counsel to teens and personal consumption of alcohol. CM