"Every time you are tempted to react in the same old way, ask if you want to be a prisoner of the past or a pioneer of the future." —Deepak Chopra
Date of Event: Monday, August 15th 2022
Time of Event: 9:30 AM — 1:00 PM PST
Place of Event: Webinar
According to data from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), before the Coronavirus pandemic approximately 14.5 million people ages 12 years and older struggled with Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) in the United States, while only 7.2% received treatment. Of the 414,000 teenagers in that 14.5 million figure, just 6.8% of them received care. The fact that many people with AUD seek treatment for issues stemming from their alcohol use, rather than for their excessive drinking lowers those treatment numbers even futher. One year of pandemic isolation and, per the National Institute of Drug Abuse (NIDA), that 14.5million doubled to nearly 30million. Statistics for treatment are not yet available, but given the country’s severe shortage of mental health services, the percentage of those receiving care is unlikely to have improved. Alcohol related deaths meanwhile climbed 25% higher than projected in 2020 and another 21% higher in 2022 with the majority of deaths coming from the 25-44 age group, according to data from Cedar Sinai Medical Center.
While levels of alcohol use in teens stayed relatively constant during the pandemic, the CDC reports that their mental health deteriorated and their incidence of behavioral health issues, already a leading cause of death for persons aged 15-24, increased. Although thorough disaggregation of the data for this age group will be necessary to make truly nuanced policy decisions, it is clear that there is a need for concerted action.
The most recent assessment on alcohol’s economic burden, conducted by the CDC in 2010, placed the sum of drinking’s negative externalities at $249 billion. While that number has no doubt grown since, alcohol sales in 2020 alone surpassed $250+ billion. It was the largest year over year increase since 2002 and enough to fund NIH research into alcohol, alcoholism, and alcohol misuse for the next 453 years.
Legislation at the Federal, State, and local levels about taxation, impaired driving, alcohol availability, and more needs to be carefully considered to offset the consequences of drinking as well as to fund research and treatment for both AUD and behavioral health more broadly. There is also a growing policy conversation on both the left and right sides of the political spectrum, spurred on by the publication of the book Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism by a pair of Princeton economists, that legislators need to do more to address the root economic and social despair which leads so many Americans to alcohol and other unhealthy coping mechanisms in the first place. While prescriptions vary, both sides agree that Covid has increased the urgency of acting on these issues, and that something has to be done to help steer vulnerable Americans away from destructive behaviors.
This symposium will provide a space for policymakers, practitioners, academics, and others to have an open conversation about the way forward on alcohol use in post-Covid America. It will offer a chance to weight the pros and cons of existing policies, to share best-practices among practitioners tackling the issue from various perspectives, and to identify areas where concerted action has the most potential to make a positive impact.
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