Data: Alcohol deaths ‘exploded’ during pandemic

Alcohol-related deaths surged at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, new figures show. (Dreamstime/TNS)

Deaths caused by alcohol use have been climbing in the United States for nearly 20 years, but rose dramatically at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to data released Friday by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol-related deaths increased by 26% from 2019 to 2020, rising from 10.4 deaths for 100,000 people in 2019 to 13 for every 100,000 people in 2020.

“What’s a word bigger than crisis? What was already a crisis, has exploded,” Marvin Ventrell, chief executive officer of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, said to CNN.

Although death rates overall were higher among men than women — in 2020, there were 19.2 deaths per 100,000 men, compared with 7.5 per 100,000 women — women saw the largest one-year increase at 27%.

Among women, the greatest increase was 42% for those ages 35-44, rising from 7.2 deaths per 100,000 in 2019 to 10.2 per 100,000 in 2020, NBC News reported. The second largest, NBC News said, was a 34% rise among women 25-34.

“We know that in large-scale traumatic events to the population — like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina — people historically start drinking more. The pandemic has been, as we all know, a major stressor to our lives,” George F. Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, told CNN.

“What we’ve been picking up with numerous small studies is that about 25% of the population increased their drinking and these individuals were people who were drinking to cope with stress. And many people who drink to cope with stress inevitably go on to have an alcohol use disorder.”

In 2020, more than half of all alcohol-induced deaths were attributed to alcoholic liver disease, according to the data, followed by mental and behavioral disorders caused by alcohol use.

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