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Alcoholism, drugs on dangerous rise in Michigan

HOUGHTON — Since the outbreak of COVID-19 more than a year ago, more and more frequently the spikes in alcohol and drug use has become a topic of concern among mental health professionals, primary care providers, as well as those are effected by the behavior, either directly or indirectly.

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , American Addiction Centers, Narconon Freedom Center, have all conducted studies and published reports on the topic.

Jennifer Anderson, a state certified peer recovery coach with the Phoenix House, in Calumet Township, discussed the correlation between substance abuse and the COVID-19 pandemic at a Mental Health presentation conducted at the Keweenaw County Courthouse on May 27.

“This past year has been horrible for isolation and increase in alcohol and drug use,” she said.

The MDHHS reported that excessive alcohol use leads to approximately 88,000 deaths and 2.5 million years of potential life lost each year in the U.S. And Michigan has the 18th highest share of adults who report excessive drinking at 19.6% compared to 19.0% nationwide, the Center Square reported on Apr.1, 2021. What do these statistics mean?

As mlive.com reported on Feb. 5, 2021, according to study conducted by DrugAbuse.com, in the year 2020, the average Michigan resident consumed 965 alcoholic drinks, or 18 drinks per week, far exceeding the CDC’s definition of “heavy drinking.”

Mlive.com went on to say that DrugAbuse.com surveyed 3,000 drinkers and found that the average Michigander’s consumption of 18 “standard size” alcoholic beverages per week last year was above the national average – 17 drinks per week.

According to the Iosco County News-Herald for June 16, 2021, states with higher excessive drinking rates are more likely to have deadly roadway accidents involving alcohol. In Michigan, 29.0% of fatal car accidents involve alcohol.

University of Michigan Health (healthblog.uofmhealth.0rg) reported on June 9, 2021 that in all, 23% of adults over 50 who drink alcohol reported that they routinely had three or more drinks in one sitting, according to new findings from the National Poll on Healthy Aging. And 10% of adults who drink use other drugs while drinking, including marijuana or prescription medications that can interact with alcohol in risky ways.

Older adults may find that the same amount of alcohol that they consumed with a meal or at a social occasion in the past will affect them differently now, the health report continues. That could include balance issues that could lead to falls and other injuries. Long-term drinking habits can accelerate the immune system decline that typically comes with age, and are associated with more memory loss.

Combining alcohol with substances that act on the central nervous system can pose special risks. Many older adults may not realize that they should not drink alcohol, or strictly limit their intake, if they are taking opioid pain medications, sleeping aids, sedatives, tranquilizers and medications for depression or other mental health concerns. As cannabis use for medical and recreational reasons rises in older adults, special attention is needed to this kind of interaction. Alcohol consumption combined with depression or other mental health concerns is commonly seen at the Phoenix House.

Richard Ellingsen, DP, Residential Counselor at Phoenix House, at the presentation, said, that that facility has clients come in whose mental health is so severe that they are incapable of getting clean until they handle the mental health.

“And a lot of times, we have a hard time referring them out,” he said, “because they don’t meet the specified needs that Copper Country Mental Health might require, or a lot of times, they’re not suicidal, so we can’t send them to Marquette, or they’re not dangerous, so we can’t send them to Marquette or War Memorial Hospital in Sault Ste. Marie.”

Excessive alcohol consumption in Michigan is not limited to a particular class or median. On Apr. 6, 2021, 11th District Rep. Jewell Jones was charged with four counts of resisting and obstructing a police officer, operating a motor vehicle with high blood alcohol content, operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, possession of a weapon under the influence of alcohol and reckless driving.

Just one month later, on May 3, State Rep. Bryan Posthumus, a first-term Representative, was arrested after his Jeep hit a mailbox and rolled over after leaving his family’s farm in Oakfield Township, the lawmaker said in a news release. Posthumus was arrested in Ada Township outside Grand Rapids on suspicion of operating while intoxicated.

Michigan’s overall ranking as eighth highest state for drug use and addiction, links back to what personnel at the Phoenix House spoke of as another mental health or disorder issue that needs to be addressed.

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