Alcohol-Related Deaths Have Doubled Since 1999. Here's Why.

  • Alcohol-related deaths are on the rise according to a new study.
  • In 2017, 3 percent of 3 million deaths involved alcohol.
  • Rates were highest among men between the ages of 45 to 74.
  • Study findings indicate women and people over 50 have seen the greatest increases in alcohol use.

A new study finds that the number of alcohol-related deaths per year among people ages 16 and older doubled from 35,914 to 72,558 between 1999 and 2017.

Researchers analyzed U.S. mortality data from the National Center for Health Statistics to find almost 1 million alcohol-related deaths were recorded between 1999 and 2017.

The study was published Jan. 7 in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Many deaths caused by liver disease or overdose

Researchers found that in 2017 nearly 3 percent of roughly 3 million U.S. deaths involved alcohol. Nearly half of those deaths were caused by liver disease or overdosing on alcohol alone or in addition to other drugs.

Rates were highest among men, people between 45 to 74 years old, and among non-Hispanic American Indians or Alaska Natives.

“Given previous reports that death certificates often fail to indicate the contribution of alcohol, the scope of alcohol-related mortality in the United States is likely higher than suggested from death certificates alone. Findings confirm an increasing burden of alcohol on public health and support the need for improving surveillance of alcohol-involved mortality,” wrote the study authors.

Alarming statistics

The study reveals that trends in alcohol use are different for men than for women.

Researchers found while the overall prevalence of drinking and binge drinking didn’t change for men, among women there was about a 10 percent increase in the prevalence of drinking and an almost 25 percent increase in binge drinking.

People 50 and older also increased alcohol consumption more compared to younger age groups.

“I think it’s important to recognize what alcohol is. Alcohol is effectively, in many ways an anesthetic, alcohol makes you feel less, not feel more,” Alex Dimitriu, of Menlo Park Psychiatry and Sleep Medicine, told Healthline.

“The question then becomes, ‘What is it that we’re trying to anesthetize?’ Because I think that these rising rates of alcohol-related deaths and binge drinking are really evidence of a society that perhaps is trying to mask, hide, or run from something,” he said.

Significant increase in alcohol-related deaths

According to the study findings, rates of emergency department (ED) visits that involve alcohol increased almost 50 percent among people ages 12 and older.

Alcohol-related ED visits and hospitalizations were significantly greater for females than males and even more evident in older age groups.

“Women are continually increasing in their use of alcohol, you know, catching up to men. Alcohol use among women is not only increasing but the openness of it is increasing as well,” said Moe Gelbart, PhD, a psychologist at Gelbart and Associates.

Researchers also found evidence suggesting deaths related to drinking are on the rise.

Between 2000 and 2015, the rate of deaths from alcohol-related liver damage (cirrhosis) in the United States increased 35 percent with the number of deaths about 74 percent higher, according to recently published research.

However, “the full magnitude of alcohol-related mortality in the United States is difficult to determine, in part because the contribution of alcohol is not always apparent at the time that a death certificate is completed,” study authors wrote.

Some research indicates that death certificates can often fail to record the contribution of drinking to cause of death.

One study found fewer than 20 percent of drunk-driving fatalities were recorded as alcohol-related on death certificates.

Alcohol-related deaths in the US

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):

  • An estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol the third leading preventable cause of death in the United States.
  • In 2014, alcohol-related driving deaths accounted for nearly 10,000 deaths or 31 percent of overall driving fatalities.

“Another factor is that, like with many other diseases, there’s better reporting. Deaths which were not attributed to alcohol-related illness in the past are being recognized more,” Gelbart said.

“We also know that suicide is greatly on the rise, and alcohol is a huge factor in suicide rates,” he added. “I’m not surprised that there’s an increase in deaths and an increase in alcohol use in general.”

Possible reasons why

Dimitriu emphasized that it looks like people are in distress, and he highlighted the increasing popularity of apps like Calm and others intended to improve anxiety or insomnia.

“My theory is that we’re missing out on something we had before. It could range from either the structure of nearby family, or a good social network,” Dimitriu said.

“Maybe that’s been broken down by the presence of social media or other factors like that, or longer work hours. Depression rates have also been increasing, and suicide has as well,” he said.

He explained that conditions like depression, anxiety, and insomnia, while being physical issues, can also result from “a disconnect from essential functions like off-time, friends, family, and love.”

Dimitriu concluded that maybe technology has outpaced biological evolution and many people need relief from that stress — and alcohol is the most easy drug to access.

The bottom line

New research finds that rates of death from alcohol use have doubled from 1999 to 2017.

Experts emphasize that these findings may underestimate the true numbers because even when alcohol is a factor, it isn’t always recorded as a cause of death.

Study findings indicate women and people over age 50 have seen the greatest increases in alcohol use.

Article adapted from: Healthline

Colon Cancer Screening Can Save Your Life

There are simply too many people who are still getting and dying from colon cancer, a preventable disease, because they failed to get screened for it.

For example, let’s consider Joy Ginsburg. Joy’s experience shows that even some doctors may need to be pushed into encouraging their patients to be tested. Ms. Ginsburg was 48 when her primary care doctor suggested that she have a baseline colonoscopy.

But the gastroenterologist she consulted was reluctant to perform one. “He made fun of me,” she said. “I was not yet 50 and had no symptoms, risk factors or family history of colon cancer.”

Still, Ms. Ginsburg was aware that last year the American Cancer Society had lowered the recommended age to start screening from 50 to 45, so she insisted. And it was lucky that she did. A very large precancerous polyp, the size of a golf ball, was found that required surgical removal along with 40 percent of her colon.

“If I had waited until 50 to get screened, I would have had a very different story to tell,” she said. “Now I’m screaming from the rooftops for everyone to get screened. Having a colonoscopy is a lot easier than getting cancer.”

Five years ago, the American Cancer Society and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention established the National Colorectal Cancer Roundtable with a goal to get 80 percent of all Americans ages 50 to 75 screened for cancers of the colon and rectum by any medically accepted method by 2018. At the time, only about 65 percent of those in the designated age group were up-to-date with an approved test.

Now, with colorectal cancer being found in an increasing number of younger adults, the pressure is on to screen millions more adults in every community of the United States. The current goal is to test at least 80 percent of residents ages 45 to 75 in each community using an approved method. More than 1,800 community organizations have already lined up to help make this happen.

“We’re not insisting that everyone get a colonoscopy, even though it’s the gold standard for detecting and preventing colon cancer,” said Dr. Richard C. Wender, chief cancer control officer at the cancer society. “A lot of people don’t want it, some can’t afford it, and sometimes it’s not available.”

Colorectal cancer is the second most common cause of cancer deaths in this country, with more than 51,000 people expected to die of the disease this year. Although the overall death rate has been dropping for several decades, thanks largely to increased detection and removal of precancerous polyps, deaths among people younger than 55 have increased by 1 percent a year since 2007. This means it’s all the more important to encourage screening among middle-aged adults.

As important as getting screened for colorectal cancer is the need to avoid risk factors for the disease that individuals can control. These include being overweight or physically inactive, smoking, consuming alcohol immoderately, and eating lots of red meat and processed meat.

Risk factors that are unavoidable include getting older; having an inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease), or having close relatives (such as parents or siblings) who had colorectal cancer or adenomatous polyps or an inherited cancer syndrome like Lynch syndrome or familial polyposis. Doctors may advise people with these risk factors to get screened for colorectal cancer as often as every year or two.

Article adapted from The New York Times, March 11, 2019, Jane E. Brody

Protecting kids from adverse experiences can boost lifelong health

Childhood experiences, both positive and negative, have a tremendous impact on future violence victimization and perpetration, and lifelong health and opportunity. As such, adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are an important public health issue. Learn how everyone can help prevent ACEs by using strategies to create safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments for all children.

Preventing adverse experiences in childhood can help people stay healthy throughout their lives, new research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.

Protecting kids from adverse childhood experiences — such as violence, abuse or growing up around people with mental health or substance use problems — can help reduce chronic diseases, risky health behaviors and socio-economic challenges later in life, according to a Nov. 8 study in CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 

Nearly 16% of U.S. adults have experienced four or more ACEs their lifetimes, the study said, with women, blacks and American Indian and Alaska Natives at highest risk. 

ACEs can change brain development and affect how the body responds to stress. This can lead to chronic health problems, mental illness, substance misuse and reduced educational and occupational achievement in adulthood. At least five of the top 10 leading causes of death are associated with adverse childhood experiences.

Creating “safe, stable, nurturing relationships and environments” can help prevent ACEs and help children and adults thrive, according to the study, which was published as a CDC Vital Signs Report. Preventing ACES can reduce risky behaviors like smoking and heavy drinking, improve education and employment potential and stop ACEs from being passed from one generation to the next.  

To address ACEs, the report recommended that: 

• health care providers refer patients affected by ACEs for services and support and link adults at risk to parenting interventions and substance abuse treatment;
• employers support family-friendly policies, such as paid family leave and flexible work schedules; 
• states and communities improve access to high-quality child care, address financial hardships and foster skills that manage emotion and conflicts; and that
• everyone “support community programs and policies that provide safe and healthy conditions for all children and families.”

For more insights on ACEs, read this recent column from APHA past-president Pam Aaltonen in The Nation’s Health. 

Article by Louise Dettman on Public Health Newswire

Create safe Thanksgiving meals!

The holidays are here, which means you’re probably getting ready to share meals and merriment with families and friends.

This can be a fantastic and yummy time of the year. But if you don’t take care while preparing all that delicious holiday food, you can put people at risk for food poisoning.

Anyone can get sick from food poisoning, but some folks are at higher risk. Kids under age 5, seniors and women who are pregnant are all more likely to get sick from food and have a serious illness.

Luckily, preventing food poisoning can be easy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture  has these tips to help home chefs create safe Thanksgiving meals:

• Wash your hands often while cooking. Use soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Dry your hands on a clean paper towel, not a dirty apron or towel.
• Prevent cross-contamination. Clean surfaces as you go, including sinks and counters. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for meat and other food. That way, you won’t end up with raw turkey juice in your salad. (Blech!)
• Cook the turkey to 165 degrees. Use a food thermometer to check it’s done, and never rely on those cheap pop-up ones that come with the turkey.
• Follow the two-hour rule. If all your food hasn’t been gobbled up two hours after you’ve set it out on the table, it’s time to wrap it up and stick it in the fridge. Any leftovers that are perishable should be eaten or frozen within three to four days.

For more seasonal food prep tips, check out FoodSafety.gov

If you have questions while cooking your turkey, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline.
Have a happy, healthy holiday!

By USDA FoodSafety.gov

Halloween the Healthy Way

Halloween image with the wording Creatures of Habit
Make choices to stay healthy and strong!

Have a safe and healthy Halloween

Make Halloween festivities fun, safe, and healthy for trick-or-treaters and party guests.

Take steps to prevent the flu and other illness

It’s Halloween and the flu season is here! Keeping hands clean by washing them with soap and water is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs. Everyone 6 months and older should get a flu vaccine each year for the best protection against influenza throughout flu season.

Keep your bite healthy

Brush with fluoride toothpaste. Floss every day. Don’t go batty for sugary treats.

Sleep tight

Don’t look a fright this Halloween! Insufficient sleep is associated with a number of long-lasting diseases and conditions. Adults should get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.

Treat yourself to fruits and veggies

Don’t fill up on junk this Halloween. Treat yourself to yummy fruits and vegetables. They make a great healthy snack to serve for Halloween parties.

Be a smoke-free creature of habit

Smoking harms nearly every organ of the body. Make your Halloween activities smoke- and tobacco-free events. Eliminating smoking in indoor spaces is the only way to fully protect nonsmokers from secondhand smoke exposure.

Prevent injuries

Make sure costumes fit well to avoid blocked vision, trips, and falls. Check out a fun coloring book. Color Me Safe! from CDC tells the rhyming story of the “Safe Family,” who take steps to protect themselves from injury at home, on the road, and at play.

Article from the CDC.

Temporary ban on flavored vaping products

Effective October 15, 2019 through April 11, 2020, the sale of flavored vaping products is prohibited​ in the state of Oregon for 180 days.

  • No retailer may sell a flavored vaping product to a consumer in Oregon.
  • Online sales of flavored vaping products to people in Oregon are also prohibited during the ban.
  • The temporary ban applies to THC and non-THC vaping products.

Governor Kate Brown’s Executive Order 19-09 to enact a temporary ban on the sale or display of flavored vaping products is an evidence-based strategy to prevent youth, as well as adults attracted to flavors, from becoming exposed to the health risks from vaping products and from becoming addicted to nicotine. These recommendations from the Governor, taken together, will help us protect the health of all Oregonians. The Oregon Health Authority urges all Oregonians who use vaping products to stop vaping immediately.

OHA continues to work with health care providers in Oregon to identify cases of vaping-related illnesses and to partner with federal officials to investigate the causes ​of vaping-related lung injuries and deaths.

The Oregon Health Authority will work closely with the Oregon Liquor Control Commission, the Oregon Department of Justice and other agencies to implement the Governor’s Executive Order, including launching a statewide public education effort to warn Oregonians about the risks e-cigarette use or vaping products pose to youth and adults. Nearly 90 percent of Oregon high school students who exclusively use e-cigarettes use flavored products.

Read the Governor’s press release.​ 

The Oregon Health Authority is urging Oregonians to stop using all vaping products until federal and state officials have determined the cause of serious lung injuries and deaths linked to the use of both cannabis and nicotine vaping products. State health officials will continue to work closely with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration to determine the cause of deaths and illnesses in Oregon and across the nation.

No vaping products should be considered safe. Until health experts can identify why people who have used these products have become seriously ill, and in some cases died, no vaping product should be used.

People who experience symptoms of the illness after using vaping products, such as shortness of breath, cough or chest pain, should immediately seek medical attention.

Get Help Quitting

Oregon Quit Line

The Oregon Quit Line is a free, telephone and web-based program that helps youth and adults quit vaping ​cannabis and nicotine. It offers free confidential, evidence-based counseling and materials. Callers 18 years and older can receive Nicotine Replacement Therapy in the form of patches or gum.

The Quit Line is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week.


This is Quitting

This is Quitting powered by truth® is a free, confidential, 24-7 texting program for young people who vape. 


Oregon’s Drug and Alcohol Helpline​

The Alcohol and Drug Helpline serves anyone in Oregon who needs information, support or access to resources and treatment for alcohol or drug use. If you or someone you know needs help, the Alcohol and Drug Helpline is free, confidential, and available 24-7, 365 days a year.

  • Call 800-923-4357 or Text RecoveryNow to 839863.

SAMHSA’s National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families who need support quitting substances other than nicotine. 

  • ​Call 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

For more information, visit the Oregon Health Authority page on Vaping and Your Health

LGBTQIA+ Welcome

The Malheur County Health Department (MCHD) provides compassionate, high quality care for all people in Malheur County, including LGBTQIA+ individuals. We are proud to offer many services for the health and well-being of our community, including:

  • Rapid HIV testing, referral, and case coordination
  • Sexually Transmitted Infections testing and treatment
  • Communicable disease testing and case coordination, including tuberculosis and hepatitis
  • Wide range of birth control options
  • Immunizations, including HPV for all genders ages 9-26
  • Home Visiting programs for parents with children age 5 and under
  • Pregnancy testing and counseling
  • Tobacco prevention and education
  • Birth and death certificates, available within 6 months of event
  • WIC nutrition program for qualifying families with children age 5 and under

We are a community of all sexual orientations and gender identities and have a variety of health needs. MCHD serves all people regardless of ability to pay, with a few low-cost exceptions. No one will be denied services based on immigration status, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, nationality, or religious affiliation. MCHD also accepts Medicare, Medicaid, and most private health insurance. If you do not have insurance, we have staff who can help you sign up for the Oregon Health Plan or determine your eligibility for other assistance programs.

All services are confidential and open to all ages. Call 541-889-7279 to make an appointment. Walk ins welcome. Se habla Español.

Crisis Resources and Support

Resources for LGBT Youth and Friends/Supporters

Some LGBT youth are more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience negative health and life outcomes. It is important that at-risk LGBT youth have access to resources and support to deal with the questions and challenges they may face as they mature.

Resources for Educators and School Administrators

Because some LGBT youth are more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience bullying or other aggression in school, it is important that educators, counselors, and school administrators have access to resources and support to create a safe, healthy learning environment for all students.

Resources for Parents, Guardians, and Family Members

Some LGBT youth are more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience negative health and life outcomes, so it is critical for the parents, guardians, and other family members of LGBT youth to have access to the resources they need to ensure their LGBT children are protected and supported.

Resources from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) LGBT Youth Resources

Public Health Warning: People should stop vaping immediately

oha logo
Second vaping-related death in state confirmed; people who vape are at risk, officials say

The Oregon Health Authority is issuing a public health warning urging people to immediately stop using all vaping products. On September 26, 2019, the agency confirmed a second vaping-related death in the state.

This is the second death among the five previously reported cases. Oregon’s first fatality was announced on Sept. 3. All five cases are part of a national outbreak of severe lung injury linked to vaping and e-cigarette use.

“People should stop vaping immediately,” said Dean Sidelinger, MD, state health officer. “If you vape, whether it’s cannabis, nicotine or other products, please quit. These are addictive substances, and we encourage people to take advantage of free resources to help them quit.”

He added: “If you haven’t started vaping, don’t start.”

OHA officials say the most recent death was an individual who had been hospitalized with respiratory symptoms after vaping cannabis products. Nationally, there have been more than 800 cases, primarily among youths and young adults, in 46 states and one U.S. territory. A total of 12 additional deaths, including Oregon’s first fatality, have been reported in 10 states.

Those who have fallen ill in Oregon have been hospitalized after experiencing worsening symptoms, including shortness of breath, cough or chest pain. CDC and the FDA have not identified a cause, but all cases have reported e-cigarette use or vaping.

OHA investigators and local public health authorities continue to urge clinicians to be on alert for signs of severe respiratory illness among patients and report any cases.

Before the new illness reports, OHA was already concerned about the health risks of vaping products. A recent report by the agency details the health risks for the products including nicotine addiction, exposure to toxic chemicals known to cause cancer and increases in blood pressure.

Individuals who have recently vaped and are having difficulty breathing should seek medical attention immediately.

If you or someone you know smokes or vapes, we urge you to quit now. Free help is available from the following resources:

Switching to cigarettes or other combustible products is not a safer option.

Public Health Warning: Stop using vaping products

Public health officials have now linked a second Oregon death to the use of vaping products. The Oregon Health Authority urges Oregonians to stop using all vaping products until federal and state officials have determined the cause of serious lung injuries and deaths linked to the use of both cannabis and nicotine vaping products. No vaping products should be considered safe. Until health experts can identify why people who have used these products have become seriously ill, and in some cases died, no vaping product should be used. State health officials will continue to work closely with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration to determine the cause of deaths and illnesses in Oregon and across the nation

Oregon Health Authority Media contact: Jonathan Modie, 971-246-9139, phd.communications@dhsoha.state.or.us

Oregon Health Authority Report on Tobacco Retailer Inspections

The Oregon Health Authority recently released a report highlighting a slight decrease in illegal cigarette sales, but illegal sales of little cigars doubled. For Malheur County, what was most striking was how few stores were inspected, giving us an incomplete snapshot of the scale of illegal sales. Only 8 out of 26 retailers in Malheur County were inspected in 2019.

This incomplete snapshot is particularly concerning given the rise of the vaping epidemic among our youth and the recent fatality in Oregon connected with vaping.

The Oregon Health Authority’s Public Health Division conducts retail inspections in collaboration with Oregon State Police. In 2019, the state inspected 1,100 retailers out of about 3,200 retailers who sell tobacco and e-cigarette products statewide. If a retailer violates the law, a citation is issued to the store’s clerk, manager on duty or owner. The annual inspection report shows which stores passed inspection and which sold illegally to people under age 21.

One of the challenges of our inspection process in the state is that only a few counties in Oregon require a license to sell tobacco – and there’s no state license. This means it is extremely difficult to enforce the minimum legal sales age by holding retailers accountable for illegal sales. A tobacco retail license would make it possible to track who is selling tobacco (and thoroughly inspect each one), educate retailers on how to comply with the law and have meaningful penalties for repeat offenders.

The list of Oregon tobacco retailers that violated the tobacco sales is available on the OHA Public Health Division website here.

For more information about how the tobacco industry markets in Oregon, see the recent Tobacco Retail Assessment Report here.

Vaping Sicknesses Rising: 153 Cases Reported in 16 States

Sean Bills, a West Valley City, Utah resident, on life support in Jordan Valley Hospital. Bills’ family said he was admitted to the hospital Saturday after vaping gave him lipoid pneumonia. More on his story HERE.

Sixteen states have now reported 153 cases of serious, vaping-related respiratory illnesses in the past two months, and many of the patients are teenagers or young adults.

In a statement on Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that all of the cases occurred in people who acknowledged vaping either nicotine or tetrahydrocannabinol, known as THC, the high-inducing chemical in marijuana.

Federal and state officials say that they are mystified as to what is causing the illnesses, but that it does not appear that an infectious disease is responsible. No one product or device is common among the cases, the agency said. It also was unclear whether a contaminant in a used cartridge or a home-brewed concoction of vaping liquids contributed to some of the ailments.

The patients, most of whom were adolescents or young adults, were admitted to hospitals with difficulty breathing. Many also reported chest pain, vomiting and fatigue.

The most seriously ill patients had serious lung damage that required treatment with oxygen and days on a ventilator. Some are expected to have permanent lung damage. Some severe cases were earlier reported in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Illinois and California.

In an email, the C.D.C. said that while more study was needed, vaping either cannabis or nicotine could be dangerous.

“E-cigarettes are still fairly new, and scientists are still learning about their long-term health effects,” said Brian King, deputy director for research translation in the agency’s smoking and health office. “Adverse respiratory effects associated with e-cigarette use could be the result of a variety of factors, including intended and unintended constituents of these products.”

Mr. King said numerous ingredients in e-cigarette aerosol could harm the lungs, including ultrafine particles that could be inhaled deeply, heavy metals like lead, volatile organic compounds and cancer-causing agents.

The C.D.C. urged doctors to report suspected cases to their state health agencies. The Food and Drug Administration is also collecting information about illnesses related to e-cigarettes and vaping.

“Oftentimes people are vaping both nicotine and the THC products, so it’s unclear which may be responsible,” said Dr. Michael Lynch, medical director of the poison center at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. “Probably this has been happening occasionally and we haven’t been aware of it, because the association with vaping wasn’t necessarily made. Now people are on the lookout, which is good, because we want to make sure we have an understanding of how prevalent an issue this is.”

Article adapted from The New York Times. A version of this article appears in print on Aug. 21, 2019, Section A, Page 13 of the New York edition with the headline: More Youth Getting Sick From Vaping, C.D.C.