Alcohol-related deaths in the US rose during the Covid-19 pandemic, CDC data shows


Alcohol-related deaths in the United States rose during the Covid-19 pandemic, killing more than 49,000 people in 2020, according to data released Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The alcohol-related death rate has been steadily increasing for the past few decades, but between 2019 and 2020 it rose by 26%, almost the same increase in one year as in the previous decade. In 2020, alcohol caused 13 deaths per 100,000 people, compared to 10.4 deaths per 100,000 people in 2019.

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

Alcoholic liver disease was the cause of more than half of alcohol-related deaths in 2020, followed by mental and behavioral disorders due to alcohol use. This analysis does not include deaths in which alcohol consumption may have contributed directly but was not the sole factor.

Including other deaths attributed to excessive alcohol consumption, but not directly caused by it, such as cancer, heart disease and unintentional injuries such as car accidents, nearly triples the number of alcohol-related deaths, according to the CDC. That would far exceed the number of alcohol-related deaths than the number of drug overdose deaths, ie. rA record during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Americans drank more during the Covid-19 pandemic, experts say, creating the right environment for alcohol abuse.

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

“What we’re getting from a lot of small studies is that about 25% of the population increased their drinking and those people were people who drank to cope with stress. And a lot of people who drink to cope with stress inevitably end up with alcohol use disorder.”

Wide social acceptance and easy accessibility make alcohol an easy option to deal with stress, and easy to lose problematic use, experts say.

“If a substance is harmful, the greater the access to that substance, the greater the harm it will cause. What is the most accessible substance? alcohol And what is the substance with the least social stigma in terms of use? Alcohol,” Ventrell said.

“You’ll say ‘Joe drinks a little too much, but that’s just Joe’.” But no one says, ‘Joe uses a little too much meth, but he’s a good dad.’”

And while experts say the effects of alcohol abuse may be more immediate than those of other drugs, they are less devastating.

“Alcohol is really insidious, meaning it wears on your body over a long period of time,” said Dr. James Latronica, a family medicine physician with addiction medicine services at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Western Psychiatric Hospital.

According to CDC data, middle-aged men died from excessive alcohol consumption in 2020. The highest death rate was in men between the ages of 55 and 64: there were almost 60 deaths per 100,000 people in this age group, more than that. four times the general rate. Women’s death rates were also the highest in this age group, but three times lower than men’s.

But in the first year of the pandemic, death rates rose the most for younger men under 45 and the biggest increases for women aged 25 to 44, suggesting that alcohol is causing more health problems for the younger age group than before. Another study published earlier this week found that in the five years before the Covid-19 pandemic, 1 in 5 deaths among US adults aged 20 to 49 was due to excessive drinking.

At all ages, men were twice as likely as women to die from alcohol-related causes, but the overall gap narrowed in 2020.

Experts also attribute part of this change to the pandemic.

“There’s a mental health interaction that’s going to suffer during the pandemic,” Koob said. Women are twice as likely as men to experience anxiety and depression, and the stress of the pandemic is likely to hit them particularly hard.

“And women are also more vulnerable to the pathological effects of alcohol, from liver disease to some mental health interactions,” she said.

Because of the over-the-counter effects of too much alcohol, experts say the effects of the pandemic are likely to continue to drive alcohol-related deaths for years to come.

But better access to treatment can mitigate the loss; screening rates have improved, experts say, but fewer than 1 in 10 people with alcohol use disorders are getting the treatment they need.

“With these studies, some people may be concerned if their relationship with alcohol is unhealthy,” Latronica said. Alcohol can cause a lot of problems, she said, but it’s much easier to deal with them when you talk about them, and that can start with a primary care visit.