On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) published new data revealing the full extent of alcohol-related deaths during the roughly two-year lockdown period of the Chinese coronavirus pandemic.
As reported by CNN, the rate of alcohol-related deaths in the United States spiked by 26 percent between 2019 and 2020, with this one-year percentage increase being higher than the cumulative increase over the entirety of the previous decade. As a result, alcohol was the cause of death for over 49,000 Americans in 2020, which amounts to 13 out of every 100,000 people on average, up from 2019’s total of 10.4 people out of every 100,000.
In response to the CDC’s findings, Marvin Ventrell, CEO of the National Association of Addiction Treatment Providers, rhetorically asked: “What’s a word bigger than crisis? What was already a crisis, has exploded.”
Of the 49,000 alcohol-induced deaths in 2020, over half were specifically the result of alcoholic liver disease; the second leading cause of alcohol-related deaths were mental and behavioral disorders as a result of alcohol use.
However, if deaths that can be attributed to overuse of alcohol without being directly caused by it are also taken into account, then the number of total deaths triples, surpassing even the number of drug overdose-related deaths. Such factors can include heart disease and injuries sustained while under the influence of alcohol.
“We know that in large-scale traumatic events to the population – like 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina – people historically start drinking more,” said George Kobb, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “The pandemic has been, as we all know, a major stressor to our lives.”
Kobb further explained how the rise in alcohol-related deaths was due in part to many people taking up drinking during the pandemic who did not drink alcohol regularly before the pandemic: “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.”
This study is the latest in a series of findings confirming that the extensive lockdown periods during COVID have caused irreparable harm to society, from physical and mental health crises to the long-term effects on education and students’ learning abilities due to the schools being shut down.