KNOXVILLE - A study published this week found alarming increases in alcoholism.
The 11 year analysis found that overall, alcohol use disorders grew by 49.4 percent. For women, alcohol use disorders grew by 83.7 percent. The African American subgroup saw at 92.8 percent increase.
Though the statistics are so significant study authors say the increase "constitutes a public health crisis," local health leaders aren't surprised.
"I believe it because I live it every day serving patients," Anne Burnett Young said. "Until we get to a place where we're ready to put our money where our mouth is, it's going to continue to climb."
Young is the director for Cornerstone of Recovery's women's, young adult and recovery renewal programs. In her more than 25 years working in the mental health and substance abuse recovery fields, Young has seen how changes in social norms have led more people to develop alcohol dependency.
"It's pressure from families to be a good mom, to be a good wife, to be a good daughter. It's stressors from the job to perform at a high level. It's pressure from the community to be active. It's pressure from the church to serve," Young said. "With the increasing stress that women in particular feel in their community, it's not surprising that alcoholism is on the rise."
The study crunched data from around 40,000 face-to-face interviews from 2001 to 2002 and 2012 to 2013.
Knox County public health director Martha Buchanan, M.D., says there are several key sociological events and trends that explain the growth.
"Maybe we're focusing on opiate problem and alcohol's kind of getting left in the dust, but alcohol is still an addictive substance and we need to keep our eyes on that as well," Buchanan said. "Also, in that time frame in our society we had economic turndown and increased stress, and our lives are so busy and disconnected now. We're seeing some increase in depression, so a lot of times alcohol use starts as a self-medicating process."
Both Buchanan and Young say reversing the trend of alcoholism - and all addictions - start with changing how society views the problem.
"We need to destigmatize addiction to see it as the chronic disease that it is and treat it that way," Buchanan said.
Despite the growth in addiction rates, Young says she's still hopeful because she knows treatment works.
"We have seen thousands and thousands of people get their lives back," Young said. "So I know that there is hope and there is a cure and it's important that we allow people to get that."
To read the full report click HERE.
For resources for substance abuse treatment click HERE.
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