Has Alcoholism Decreased as Opioid Addiction has Increased?

Hip men talking
JAMA Psychiatry recently published a study which indicated that alcohol misuse, specifically, is on the rise. The effect of the opioid epidemic has not thwarted the ongoing trend of alcohol misuse. In many ways, the headline-stealing opioid epidemic has cast a shadow over a chronic alcohol problem in America. Previous estimations of the amount of people suffering from a substance use disorder was a number close to 23 million. According to the new study which found significant increases in alcohol use, high-risk drinking, and alcohol use disorder, that estimation is now 30 million Americans. That is, 30 million Americans who suffer from alcoholism specifically. According to the data, that is an increase of 50% for alcohol use disorders. High-risk drinking, also called binge drinking, increased almost 30%, according to the study.


Alcoholism contributes to more deaths per year than all drug overdose death combined, which still includes the spiking rate of overdose deaths due to opioids. One of the last estimates came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which put the number at 88,000 as of data analyzed from up to 2010.


When a substance of choice becomes headline news it is easy to believe that all other addictions have started to fall off. Though a substance like opioids gains traction, it doesn’t necessarily gain converts. Meaning, people who are already addicted to other substances or becoming addicted to other substances are not necessarily joining the trend of the new drug of choice. It most often means there are many more new addicts becoming addicted. New addicts are also becoming part of existing addictions like alcohol addiction in the process.


Who is struggling the most?

Recent reports about the state of alcoholism in America suggested that the gender gap of alcohol misuse between men and women was rapidly closing. The JAMA report found that the disparity of alcohol use between men and women has risen. Compared to men who saw an increase in alcohol use disorder at just 35% more, women’s alcohol use disorder increased 84%. For high risk drinking, men increased at only 15% whereas women increased 60%.
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