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Alcohol Is Killing More People Than The Opioid Epidemic. So Why Aren’t We Talking About It?

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By Alanna Ketler

  • The Facts: Alcohol-related deaths are the third leading cause of preventable deaths in the US.
  • Reflect On: Should we be glamorizing the consumption of alcohol in the media and in advertisements? Is it time to get real about the potentially life-threatening risks of this drug?

In recent years, we have been hearing a lot about the opioid epidemic that is sweeping the nation. The Center for Disease Control reported that over 47,000 people died in the United States alone from an opiate overdose in 2017, that is almost 5 times the amount of deaths caused by opiates in 1999. This is important, and yes it is good this is getting the attention that it deserves. However, in the same year, an estimated 88,000 people died from alcohol-related causes — Did anyone hear about that?

Alcohol is the third leading cause of preventable death in the United States; the first is tobacco, and the second is poor diet and minimal physical activity. Given this, why aren’t we talking about it? And why don’t we see warning labels on alcoholic beverages? Why are we promoting such a harmful substance? We certainly don’t see huge billboards with people in bikinis popping OxyContin or injecting heroin, because we are well aware that these substances are addictive and can cause harm, so again, why are we openly promoting alcohol? Especially to young people?

Is It Because It’s Legal?

Is it possible that alcohol related deaths do not garner as much of a cause for concern because it is legal, easily available and socially acceptable? Most likely. Alcohol sales reached $253.8 billion in the US in 2018 — this might also have something to do with it.

I’m not suggesting that criminalizing alcohol is a solution to this issue or anything, the same way I don’t see how it’s still against the law to use any drugs at all, regardless of how bad they are for you. I believe that we should have the say in how we treat ourselves and what we put into our bodies, not the government or a legal system. But instead of being portrayed as a harmful substance, like opiates, crystal meth and crack are — alcohol is glamorized by the media; often being portrayed as sophisticated, fun, sexy and generally just the cool thing to do.

Alcohol Is Basically Encouraged In Our Society

There is no doubt about it, the use of alcohol is deeply ingrained in our culture. So much so, that choosing not to drink is often the more odd thing to do. People will always ask, oh, how come you’re not drinking? As opposed to other drugs, people won’t typically ask, oh why aren’t you smoking meth tonight? Or whatever it may be.

Binge drinking is practically expected on the weekends, and for many people it is a way to unwind, let loose and have fun after a long workweek. Many people justify their consumption this way insisting that it’s fine, because, I don’t drink every day. The thing about alcohol abuse is that it doesn’t have to be every day to be considered a problem or for the person to be considered an alcoholic.

There are many ways we tend to justify our use, because the thought of giving it up entirely or admitting that we even have a problem can be extremely overwhelming — especially if our entire livelihoods are centered on it.

How Much Is Too Much?

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) created a web site called “Rethinking Drinking” to highlight the amount of misconceptions about what is considered “low-risk” and “high-risk” alcohol consumption. It turns out, more than three drinks in a day or more than seven drinks per week for women and four drinks per day or 14 drinks per week for men are considered “high-risk,” and these patterns can be detrimental both in the short and long term.

Some people might have an attitude of, I don’t drink at all during the week, so I have all of my allotted alcoholic beverages on the weekend — however, for men consuming 5 or more drinks and for women consuming 4 or more drinks in about a 2 hour period is considered binge drinking.

Is It Time To ‘Rethink That Drink’?

Should we have more campaigns aimed to raise awareness about the potential harm caused by alcohol? Because it is legal, it seems to have this view of also being safe, because our government officials and lawmakers always have our best interest at heart, right? 😉 But if we aren’t educating young people effectively on the potential risks associated with alcohol consumption, then perhaps there should be more of an effort to make the risks known on the packaging and even eliminating ads. In my opinion, it simply does not make sense to be legally allowed to advertise something that is so harmful — especially in such a glamorized way.

I don’t know what it’s like now for teens and if it is still considered “cool” to drink and if there is a ton of peer pressure around the whole thing. My hope is that this view will shift and young people will be made more aware of the risks and more people will find the courage to step away from what is no longer serving them or what’s not in their best interest.

Many health advocates and people that are very cautious with regards to what they are putting into their body are still completely overlooking alcohol as a harmful substance. Now, there is no judgment to anyone who chooses to drink, but I think it’s time to take a good hard look at these things and at least have the awareness behind it. Surely, it can be fun from time to time to relax, to loosen up, to be silly, but when we are relying on it to escape our unhappiness from our current situation, well then maybe it’s time to face these situations head on, rather than escape them and change whatever is encouraging us to reach for that glass of wine, whiskey or beer in the first place.

How Can We Support Others?

The fact of the matter remains, many people who drink can do so sparingly, not in excess and not very often. They have a handle on it and it doesn’t interfere with their lives in a negative way. However, for the ones who have struggled — with drinking too much, too frequently, with black outs, it can be difficult to even know if it’s a problem because of how acceptable it is in our society.

If someone says, no thanks I’m not drinking, don’t ask why, and instead try, right on! And no peer pressure. I’ve had problems with drinking, have quit and relapsed twice, currently I’m sober. Before I stopped drinking this time around I would open up to some people about it, questioning my use and whether or not it was harmful, many people would tell me, ahh don’t be so hard on yourself! We are allowed to enjoy life, or shut down from time to time if we need to. If someone is expressing to you that they are concerned they might have a drinking problem, don’t make them second guess themselves, if they are opening up about it please try to support them. We don’t always know what others are going through — apparently even if they flat-out tell us. This may also challenge our own relationship with alcohol, but if you can keep that separate.

Do You Have A Problem?

If you are concerned that you might have a drinking problem, you probably do. Keeping in mind that having a problem with alcohol doesn’t necessarily make you an alcoholic. You may have a problem with alcohol if you can identify with any of the following scenarios:

  1. Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the effects of alcohol.
  2. Cravings, or a strong desire to use alcohol.
  3. Being unable to cut down on alcohol use despite a desire to do so.
  4. Continuing to abuse alcohol despite negative interpersonal or social problems that are likely due to alcohol use.
  5. Using alcohol in physically dangerous situations (such as driving or operating machinery).
  6. Drinking more or for a longer time than originally intended.
  7. Continuing to abuse alcohol despite the presence of a psychological or physical problem that is probably due to alcohol use.
  8. Being unable to fulfill major obligations at home, work, or school because of alcohol use.
  9. Giving up previously enjoyed social, occupational, or recreational activities because of alcohol use.
  10. Having a tolerance (i.e. needing to drink increasingly large or more frequent amounts of alcohol to achieve the desired effect).
  11. Developing symptoms of withdrawal when efforts are made to stop using alcohol.

A great way to get things in check is to commit to a period of time without any alcohol consumption and monitor how you feel, what you accomplish, and if you feel uplifted. You may need to ask your friends to support you during this time and have some sober activities prepared! Board games, cards, movies, sports, hiking — all these things can be great sober fun!

If your problem is more severe than this, or you are needing help in any way, reach out to a trusted friend or family member or you may benefit from your local Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for a whole slough of support and resources. If that’s not your jam, check out Hello Sunday Morning for assistance in moderating your use.

My hope is that in the near future it will be more common not to drink and doing so will be more like taking a drug, or having an experience that is typically out of the ordinary.

It is never too late to make a change, first step is to get really honest with yourself…

This article was sourced from Collective Evolution.

Hi, I’m Alanna! My journey really began in 2007 when I began to question what was being presented to me, my path led me to Collective Evolution and I joined the team in 2010. Wow, has it been an incredible journey so far! I am extremely passionate about learning new information! I aim to have a voice for animals and animal rights, I also enjoy writing about health, consciousness and I am very interested in psychedelics for healing purposes! I strongly believe that knowledge is power, and the first step to creating change on this planet is by raising awareness. “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.” -Jack Kornfield Questions or comments? Email me [email protected]

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    Total 11 comments
    • Mr. Grey

      Because it is legal. In a free country you can drink yourself to death if you want to. I support people’s right to do it.

      • Rockledge

        If we were truly free there wouldn’t be millions in prisons here, more than any other country, and there certainly wouldn’t be so many of the incarcerated by big nanny government telling them what they can ingest.

        What you said also should apply to those who want to opioid l themselves to death or coke themselves to death or whatever else they want to do.

        Big nanny government seems to think it their job to keep people from self destruction.

        • Mr. Grey

          I agree with you 100%. People should be free to take synthetic opioids too.

        • Andy

          all drugs should be legalized and regulated as are the two most dangerous drugs known to man (tobacco & alcohol)

          - no more drug wars
          - no more drug crime
          - no more drug gangs
          - no more cartels
          - no more trafficking
          - no more overdoses from bad drugs
          - BILLIONS saved on law enforcement, judicial system, incarceration, parole etc
          - BILLIONS made in tax revenues

          p.s. of the 50,000 people who died from illicit drug use, more than 70% of them died from the use of Pharmaceuticals like opioids, not from your common heroin & coke

          govt should be entirely removed from who takes what

          • Rockledge

            AND most importantly, no more dope dealers.

            Heroin costs pennies to manufacture, if the dope dealers ( including pharmacies and doctors)
            had to compete with shit that is almost free, there would no longer be huge profits in dealing them, the price would bottom out, and the makers and dealers ( both legal and illegal) would have to get real jobs.

            Drug withdrawals are horrid ( take it from a pro) and I would suggest to everyone to not go through the shit I have gone through ( the only illegal drug i have used is pot, and still do on occasion, and it is not as harmless as people are led to believe) and avoid all drugs as much as possible.
            I started out with the gateway drug tobacco.

            Three of the withdrawal experiences I had was from doc prescribed pharms, two of them the docs swore were not in any way addictive.

            The problem with getting hooked is that it ruins being able to rely on pharms when they are absolutely necessary, because it seems everything is cross addictive and once you shake the monkey off, getting hooked on something else happens very quickly.

            I am one of those people who never craves drugs and has no problem quitting other than the physical withdrawals. I don’t get psychologically hooked, I get physically hooked and go through horrid withdrawals.

            I use pot once or twice a week for severe joint problems, and have horrible side effects if I use it more often than that, and have to go for a few weeks now and then to insure I don’t have them.

            The very worst withdrawals I ever had were from alcohol, which, alcohol withdrawals are deadly.
            Going through them is like wrestling with the devil, it is horrible beyond what words can describe.

    • trashman

      Hmmm lets see::: 40,000,000 americans are need ing opioids and are now being cut off them, so extreme pain sufferers are turning too alcohol too help with their pain because that is what they need!!!Their pain is 10+ on their wonderful scale we see in doctors offices, too which those who truly suffer from cronic pain laugh at because it doesnt even begin too describe their pain., anyway , so now those who TRULY NEED opioids for their horrific pain are being cut off , including cancer paitients, Veterans , who btw have their limbs blown off., and many others who are in horrific pain !!!!! So now its like OMG!, what the bleeeeeeeep is going on?!!!! , why the sudden increase in suicides?!!, why the increase in alcohol consumption?!!!, etc etc. I appreciate your article because it addresses other issues though, like what about other deaths related too texting, or crank, or meth?!!!!, NOOOOOO its alll about opioids!!!, and btw, how in the bleepity blap is their a opioid crisis!!!!!, Everyone i know has been kicked off their narcotics !! So how is their a crisis when their is no product too abuse?!!!! Dont belive their BS!!!!!, now americans have no choice but too buy dangerous narcotics from the chinese, is that what they wanted too begin with? , I am sick and tired of the SO-CALLED OPIOID CRISES!!! NOONE HAS ANY TOO SELL LET ALONE ABUSE!!! 40,000,000 AMERICANS ARE SUFFERING ATM AND ARE CONTEMPLATING SUICIDE!!!,,, HOW DOES THAT SOUNDS TOO EVERYONE!!! FORTY MILLION!!!!!! THEY CAN KISS MY [email protected]

      • Rockledge

        This isn’t exactly true. Many are turning to street drugs, which they can obtain easier and cheaper.
        I know of more than one situation where guys couldn’t afford scripts so they turned to street drugs.
        A couple of them died of infections, which are apparently a side effect of street dope.

    • Rockledge

      It isn’t just because it it legal, at least directly. It is because it is PROFITABLE and being legal makes profiting from it a snap.
      That and the fact that prohibition was tried and failed.
      Lets face it, we are a drug driven culture, the three main drugs that drive us are beer, tobacco, and caffeine.

      People suck up caffiene all day to keep up with a work force that demands more output than humans can provide so people have to hp themselves up on shit like energy drinks or insane amounts of coffee and tea and tobacco in order to work like robots.

      Then at the end of the day they need a shot or a six pack to bring them down from the incredible pace they keep up all day.

      And the simple fact that people don’t realize how very easy it is to get hooked on alcohol, or how horrid the withdrawals are and how bad the addiction messes your nervous system up for the rest of your life, even decades after you shake the monkey off your back.

      The reality is that , since reagan and cheney ran most of the manufacturing out of the country, a large part of our economy depends on vice. Gambling, booze, and tobacco. And those who own the gambling joints, the tobacco companies, and the booze makers and pushers have a great deal of power and political capital.

      And of course we are a warring country, we like war and want to dominate the planet, so we have thousands upon thousands of soldiers who come back from wars and are left hung out to dry so they self medicate with things like booze and tobacco.

      I am a musician, with a great deal of respect for veterans ( I am a conscientious objector myself, but respect those whose conscience led them the other direction) and not only have WWII and Vietnam vets in my family, I have played music in vet clubs for years, and have seen it first hand.
      Vet clubs are bars, they are places where vets can get together and deal with their past together in the same manner.

      We are, for the most part, a society that drives the average citizen to drink. Or to use other hard drugs to cope with all the bullshit.

      • trashman

        TY Rockledge, i truly appreciate what your saying. I Blew out my back, way back in 2008, and have always been a hard working man. It was a accident that caused me too become what i am today. I have a wife who is basically a indolent, who cant take care of herself, and i am messed up in my back, very severely, i might add. Opioids are the only thing that allows me too be Me. It doesnt make me high, or it doesnt bring me any form of Illation, but rather allows me too be me, hard working , rambunctious, guy who takes care of his crippled wife, and also plants extra food every spring too help his neighbor , who truly needs it. The V.A. is taking away ALL VETERANS NARCOTICS THIS MONTH!!!, PLS think about it, cancer patients, cronic pain sufferers like me or others , who can prove their pain is real, and more other examples . How freaking inhuman is it too cut off strong

    • Andy

      However, in the same year, an estimated 88,000 people died from alcohol-related causes — Did anyone hear about that?

      however, in that same year, an estimated 125,000 people were KILLED by the correct use of correctly prescribed medications, not to mention the multitude of non fatal adverse reactions which resulted in 80 MILLION hospital visits – Did anyone hear about that?

      absolutely not, nobody wants you to know that Big Pharma is the biggest KILLER on Earth

      • Rockledge

        They are all too busy arguing of whther pot, that cannot be overdosed nor does it have deadly withdrawals ( the withdrawals are more like extreme tobacco withdrawals) should be legal.

        Prescriptions scare the hell out of my, some of my experiences with them have been the things nightmares are made of.

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