Alcohol-Related Harms: A Public Health Problem
Alcohol-related harms are part of the top 10 public health problems in the United States, according to the most updated Prevention Status Reports by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In fact, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) suggests that dependence on alcohol and drug addiction is the biggest public health issue in the United States.
This is not surprising. Alcohol abuse can disrupt entire families and communities, sometimes leaving innocent children helpless. Unlike certain health issues that are unique to a single group, alcohol dependence can affect anyone—male or female, rich or poor, and individuals from any ethnic or social groups.
Alcohol dependence can creep in slowly and evolve from binge drinking. A 2015 study by the Centers for Disease and Control showed that 1 in 6, or 37 million, adults binge drink about once a week, consuming an average of seven drinks per binge.
Alcohol-related traffic accidents can be fatal. Alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 29% of the total vehicle traffic fatalities in 2018. Statistics indicate that 36,560 people died in traffic crashes in 2018 in the United States, including an estimated 10,511 people who were killed in drunk driving crashes involving a driver with an illegal BAC (.08 or greater).
Alcohol-Related Deaths in Washington: A State-Wide Problem
Alcohol-impaired driving deaths account for 33% of driving deaths in Washington, compared to just 13% in top-performing states. Excessive alcohol use cost Washington State $5,805,100,000 in 2010 compared with the nationwide cost of almost a quarter trillion dollars in 2010.
The trend of alcohol-impaired accidents in Washington State exceeds the Nationwide trend. Across the US, one-third of all traffic deaths are due to an impaired driver, but in Washington, nearly half of all deaths that are traffic-related involve an impaired driver either using alcohol, drugs, or a combination.
The drivers involved in fatal crashes are most commonly users of a combination of drugs. According to the Columbian, the number of drivers using multiple drugs has increased an average of 15% every year since 2012.
In 2016 alone, Washington State Patrol troopers arrested nearly 13,000 impaired drivers. In the 10-year span from 2009 to 2018, Washington DUI rates peaked in 2010 with 647.08 arrests for every 100,000 people. In 2018, Washington State ranked 8th overall among the 50 US States with 430.2 DUI-related arrests per 100,000 people .
Target Zero: Reducing the Number of Highway Deaths to Zero in Washington State
The Washington State Patrol initiated a program called Target Zero with the goal of removing intoxicated drivers off the road. Target Zero aims to reduce the number of highway deaths to zero by the year 2030.
Target Zero teams were first introduced in 2010. Since then, these teams have been dispatched throughout the state and focus on areas that have had the most fatalities and serious collisions involving DUI.
Alcohol-Related Deaths in Clark County
Clark County is the fifth-most populous county in Washington State with almost 490,000 people. According to the 2018 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey, too many adolescents (5% in 10th grade and 7% in 12th grade) drive under the influence of alcohol, contributing to the mortality rate of alcohol-related deaths.
Due to efforts by the Clark County Sheriff’s Office and Washougal Police Department, officers in Clark County receive special training for DUI patrols and for drawing blood for DUI testing. The training to draw blood prevents officers from spending too much time waiting for medical personnel to arrive and perform the testing.
According to Clark County Sheriff Chuck E. Atkins, “Our desire for this program is to give our officers an effective and efficient tool to investigate impaired driving while preserving the rights and safety of our citizens. Equipping trained deputies to conduct legal blood draws greatly streamlines our abilities, freeing a deputy return to patrol in a fraction of the time.”
Due to the increased number of alcohol-related fatalities, in 2019, Clark County added extra law enforcement officials just for DUI patrol duty during the Christmas and New Year holidays.
How to Help Someone Who is Addicted to Alcohol
With nearly half of all traffic-related deaths involving alcohol in Washington, it’s clear that alcohol abuse and addiction is a big problem in the state. It can be difficult for someone struggling with alcohol addiction to get help. In fact, many people with alcohol addiction are still able to function as productive members of the community, which leads to self-denial. If you notice symptoms of alcohol addiction in friends or loved ones, you can help.
Here are some symptoms of alcohol addiction:
- Drinking more or longer than intended
- Unable to cut back on drinking
- Difficulty with focusing on other things due to constantly thinking about alcohol
- Canceling important activities while prioritizing drinking
- Increasing the amount of alcohol to get the same effect you used to have
Alcohol addiction requires professional treatment. Medically supervised detox can help reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms including nausea, trouble sleeping, seizures, shakiness, a racing heart, sweating and hallucinations. Specialized therapy can then help address the root cause of the addiction and identify a path to healing.
If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction, The Recovery Village Ridgefield can help. Contact us to get started on your recovery journey.
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U.S Department of Health and Human Services. “Alcohol and Drug Addiction Happens in the Best of Families…and it Hurts.” (n.d.). Accessed March 11, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “During Binges, U.S. Adults Have 17 Billion Drinks a Year.” March 16, 2018. Accessed March 11, 2020.
Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility. “Drunk Driving Fatality Statistics.” (n.d.). Accessed March 11, 2020.
County Health Rankings and Roadmaps. “Alcohol-impaired driving deaths.” (n.d.). Accessed March 11, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Excess Drinking is Draining the U.S. Economy.” (n.d.). Accessed March 11, 2020.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Data and Surveillance.” (n.d.). Accessed March 11, 2020.
Clark County Today.com. “Clark County Sheriff’s Office, Washougal Police Department to use trained officers to draw blood in DUI investigations.” January 30, 2020. Accessed March 11, 2020.
Shedlock, Jerzy. “Clark County law enforcement adds extra DUI patrols for holidays.” The Columbian. December 11, 2019. Accessed March 11, 2020.
Washington State Patrol. “Driver.” (n.d.). Accessed March 11, 2020.
Combos, Lucas. “Here’s How Washington Ranks Nationally In DUI Rates.” Patch. December 20, 2019. Accessed March 11, 2020.
United States Census Bureau. “QuickFacts Clark County, Washington.” (n.d.). Accessed March 11, 2020.
Washington State Healthy Youth Survey. “2018 Washington State Healthy Youth Survey. Data Brief: Substance Use Overview.” (n.d.). Accessed March 11, 2020.
Heye, Bob. “Deputies, officers can draw blood from DUI suspects under new pilot program.” KATU2 On Your Side. January 30, 2020. Accessed March 11, 2020.