Category Archives: Alcohol

Population Health Summit: A review

Yesterday, June 5th, 2018, was the 3rd Annual Population Health Summit in Bridgewater, New Jersey. The topic was focusing in on utilizing an integrated approach to address the opioid epidemic/crisis. In 2016, there were a total of 64,070 fatal overdoses in the United States, 2,200 of those being in New Jersey, 35 in Morris County. Though the number of overdoses in on the rise, there has been little action to limit the number of prescribing doctors. In New Jersey, we have 1,332 licensed prescribers but only 38 Medication Assistance Treatment (MAT). These numbers do not make sense. New Jersey increases the number of those able to prescribe, yet does not increase the number of treatment facilities that use prescriptions.

Dr. Nash, key note speaker, stated that we need to “shut off the faucet instead of mopping up the mess.” It is important to provide the prevention measures so that we can cut the opioid epidemic off at the source, and prevent people from even starting to use drugs. Dr. Nash also noted that 50% of all opioid users are unemployed and 25% are permanently disabled. This shows that the opioid epidemic needs to be looked at from the very beginning. If we provide resources from the beginning, keeping people healthy all around, it could limit the amount of people getting involved in drugs. Furthermore, it is important to address the institutional racism that has caused minorities and lower income persons to be pushed further and further away from medical care access.

The key component of the summit was to note that prevention and intervention is not a one person job. It is important for the law makers, family services, treatment centers, insurance companies, and caregivers to work together. Addressing the epidemic is a team sport, and is something that influences the entire population.

Morris County Drinking Stats

In Morris County, 26.1% of people between ages 18 and 34 are considered binge drinkers in data collected by NJSHAD, 2016. When taking this data and generalizing it over the entirety of Morris County with 95% confidence that the data is accurate and not coincidental, the range goes all the way up to a potential   Comparatively, both Passaic and Bergen county have significantly less binge drinkers, both falling about 21% (NJSHAD, 2016), and when generalized, the max is only 37%. Hudson county is also just below Morris County with a binge drinking percent of 25% and max range of 36%. Though Morris County is not the highest binge drinking county in Northern New Jersey, it is clear that the generalized data is still a high number. Especially comparing Morris County to the National Average of 25%, it becomes a larger issue.

The definition of binge drinking is having four or more drinks in one sitting for women and five or more drinks in one sitting for men, in the past 30 days. Part of the reason why binge drinking is so high in Morris County could be the number of alcohol outlets, which is approximately 473 outlets. Perception of risk is also low. The combination of outlets and low perception of risk heavily results in not only binge drinking, but also underage drinking.

Why is underage drinking so dangerous? People often question why the drinking age in the United States is 21, where in other countries it’s 18, but the brain does not stop developing until early to mid twenties. Harm to the brain during the development stages is much worse and can be irreversible. According to the CDC each year, there has been on average: 492 suicides in underage people that have been related to alcohol; 1580 motor vehicle crashes that result in death due to underage drinking; 245 deaths due to drowning, alcohol poisoning, or falling because of drinking; and 1269 homicides where the person was underage drinking. This is a total of 4358 deaths, on average, each year due to underage drinking.

CCSHM is working with New Jersey to raise awareness of the risk of underage drinking in Morris County and working to prevent the sales and consumption to underage persons. Currently, CCSHM has been handing out tool kits to all different types of liquor outlets – restaurants, bars, liquor stores, etc – that include a 2018 ID book, a black light, and some more information on encouraging people to always check ID.

Age 21 Drinking Law Reduces Alcohol-Related Deaths

Contributed by: Community Coalition for Safe and Healthy Morris

Although some want to lower the legal drinking age from 21, research continues to show that the law saves lives. In a supplemental issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers found that the age 21 and over alcohol laws are associated with lower rates of drunk-driving crashes among young people. And it seems they also curb other hazards of heavy drinking—including suicide, dating violence and unprotected sex. “The evidence is clear that there would be consequences if we lowered the legal drinking age,” said lead researcher William DeJong, Ph.D., of Boston University School of Public Health.

The U.S. legal drinking age has had a winding history. In the early 1970s, 29 states lowered their legal drinking age to 18, 19 or 20. But after a rise in drunk-driving crashes among young people, many states began to reverse the trend. A change in federal law eventually pushed all states to adopt a minimum drinking age of 21 by 1988. In recent years however, the benefits of the age-21 law have been challenged.

In 2006, a non-profit called Choose Responsibility started campaigning for a change in the federal law. Two years later, a group of more than 100 U.S. university presidents and chancellors known as the Amethyst Initiative called for a re-evaluation of the legal drinking age—citing a “clandestine” culture of heavy drinking episodes among college students as one reason that the age-21 law is not working. Those moves grabbed a lot of media attention, and public health experts responded by launching new studies into the impact of the drinking-age law. Based on DeJong’s review, that research supports what earlier work had shown: Since the legal drinking age was set at 21, young people have been drinking less and are less likely to get into drunk-driving crashes.

In one study, researchers found that in 2011, 36 percent of college students said in the past two weeks they’d engaged in heavy episodic drinking (five or more drinks in a sitting, sometimes called “binge” drinking). That compared with 43 percent of students in 1988, the first year that all U.S. states had an age-21 law. There was an even bigger decline among high school seniors—from 35 percent to 22 percent.

Underage Drinking in New Jersey: The Scary Truth

Underage drinking is something people often overlook, frequently being viewed as a “rite of passage” or something “all kids do”. People generally think that it will happen regardless of laws, or techniques, which results in parents allowing their children to drink in their own home. Having this mindset leads to underage children not thinking about the repercussions or seeing the hazards of underage drinking. This mindset not only diminishes the perception of risk, but it increases the danger.

Of all alcohol related fatal car accidents, 22.2% were caused by underage drunk drivers, in New Jersey. Of all under 21 driving fatalities, 12.2% were due to alcohol. Due to the relaxed view of underage drinking, children are not thinking about the consequences of driving after. Of all underage persons (age 12-20), 13.1% reported binge drinking in the past 30 days. Binge drinking is finishing 4 drinks in one sitting for females, and 5 drinks in one sitting for males in more than 5 days per month. These percentages seem to really correlate and ultimately, it goes back to parents allowing their children to drink or not stressing the dangers of underage drinking.

There are also a lot of other hazards, besides drinking, with underage drinking. Though underage people do not drink as frequently as adults do, when they do drink, they tend to binge drink. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 90% of alcohol consumed by underage people, is through binge drinking. With binge drinking comes poor decision making, which is likely why people do get in their cars. It also increases the risk of needing additional medical treatment. It has been found that underage drinking costs 1.6billion dollars yearly.

It is not a rite of passage, underage drinking is a hazard and it is up to parents to educate.