Alcohol related deaths on the rise

Published 8:30 am Friday, May 20, 2022

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The recent VDH report on Alcohol-Related Death in Virginia, 2016-2020, and the County Health Rankings say that the percentage of driving deaths with alcohol involvement sits a 33% for Lunenburg County.

Key findings from this report showed the number of alcohol-related deaths in Virginia increased each year from 2016 to 2020, with the most significant increase in 2020.

Overall, the number of alcohol-related deaths increased 25% from 2016 (2,926) to 2020 (3,667).

“The recent VDH report on Alcohol-Related Death in Virginia and the County Health Rankings just begin to explore the effects of the pandemic on our alcohol drinking patterns,” said Piedmont Health District Director Dr. Maria Almond. “The data shows not only that alcohol kills too many on our county roads, but that we likely underreport our drinking habits and minimize the effect of drinking on our bodies and minds.”

Almond said over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, healthy behaviors, like other routines, have been in flux.

For some, particularly early in the pandemic, there were increases in exercise or families may have spent more time outdoors together due to having an unexpected period of downtime. However, as the pandemic became an extended period of isolation, the number of unhealthy behaviors began to climb — including increases in domestic violence, worsening of eating disorders, depression and anxiety, and substance abuse, including opiates and alcohol.

“COVID-19 has taught us that we need to be more aware of the vulnerabilities of others,” Almond said. “And we need to work together as a community to help those who continue to struggle around any concern.”

Almond said it’s restaurants like One19 in Farmville and the community law enforcement that are helping with the raising issue.

“I applaud restaurants like one19 in Farmville that offer well-crafted mocktails alongside their alcoholic offerings,” Almond said. “I am grateful to our law enforcement officers that continue to keep watchful eyes out for any driving aberrations; and for those that opt to be the designated driver. And I appreciate every health provider that inquires about the alcohol habits of their patients. Alcohol is part of the social culture of many — as part of a dinnertime meal, at social gatherings, taken as part of faith rituals, to mark a special occasion. So we as a society must also take the responsibility to reduce the harms related to alcohol.”

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines heavy drinking as men consuming more than four drinks on any day or more than 14 drinks in a week; for women, this is more than three drinks on any day or more than seven drinks in a week.