WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Alcohol is often at the center of celebrations but a new study just out about alcohol is anything but something to celebrate. It finds that deaths from boozing and bingeing more than doubled in the past decade.
The study shows higher rates of deaths in the middle-aged and older drinking population. But it’s the findings about women and alcohol that are really alarming as Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller explains.
“It’s a major part of your social life,” said Kelly Hughes who works at Rodano’s Restaurant in downtown Wilkes-Barre.
She reflected on the culture of drinking in her native Pennsylvania. A new study by The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism finds that alcohol consumption per person in the U.S. jumped eight percent in the past two decades. More troubling is what’s happening with women.
“That’s definitely something new,” said Wyoming Valley Alcohol and Drug Services, Inc. CEO Jason Harlen.
He reacted to the increased rate of alcohol-related female fatalities, 85 percent, which rose at a faster rate than men which jumped 39 percent. Mr. Harlen says the study underscores that a growing number of women make alcohol a regular part of their lives.
“People like to use substances in a lot of cases to get rid of pain whether it be stress, whether it be anxiety, whether it be dealing with a tough situation. People want to feel good,” Mr. Harlan said.
Fueling that feel-good desire? The way social media and advertising make alcohol more appealing to calorie-conscious women.
Ms. Hughes said, “They’re not making it where you can’t drink. They’re giving you something that’s lighter to drink and less calories.”
Alcohol is also highly accessible. Besides state stores and beverage businesses, you can buy booze at convenience stores and supermarkets.
Even though most alcohol-related deaths among women are age 45 and older, Mr. Harlen believes alcohol abuse like bingeing is learned much earlier.
“If alcohol is not used in moderation or carefully it can cause damage both short term and long term,” he said.
Mr. Harlen wants women and everyone to know that when alcohol and other substance use gets out of hand, you don’t have to go it alone.
“There is a lot of help out there for somebody who is struggling with an alcohol use disorder,” he said.
The report, which Harlen considers a wake-up call, looked at alcohol-related deaths involving injuries, overdoses, and chronic diseases.