A new state report highlights the health impacts of alcohol misuse in Alaska.

State Epidemiology released a report that says Alaskans experience higher rates of alcohol-related deaths and binge drinking compared to other states; in 2015, Alaska ranked third nationwide. It also says the rate of alcohol-related deaths has increased by 25 percent since 1999. Between 2010 and 2016, there were 962 alcohol-related deaths in Alaska -- that's 198 more than meth- and opioid-related deaths combined, the report says.  

“While the recent increase in opioid and methamphetamine use has garnered much-needed public attention, alcohol misuse continues to be a long-standing health challenge,” said Dr. Jay Butler, Alaska’s Chief Medical Officer and Division of Public Health Director. “This report is a reminder that alcohol misuse is an important driver of ill-health and death in Alaska and it needs greater attention.”

The report says that nearly half of all Alaska children in foster care or living in out of home placements came from a home with alcohol abuse by a parent or guardian.

In 2015, the report says that alcohol use disorders cost the state about $1.8 dollars in lost productivity, incarceration and medical treatment or hospitalization.

One bright spot in the report showed a significant drop in young people drinking. The number of ninth- through twelfth-graders who reported drinking alcohol went from 80 percent in 1995 to 54 percent in 2015.

“The teen years are a time of increased susceptibility for developing problem drinking. These data indicate a change in youth behavior that we hope will continue into adulthood,” said Dr. Butler. “Prevention among teens is critical, as are early intervention efforts that help people avoid misusing alcohol before they cannot stop.”

Binge drinking rates among adults are higher than the U.S. average, according to the study. Long-term excessive drinking can lead to widespread health problems including birth defects, brain damage, cancer, heart disease, liver damage and skin disorders, among other conditions, the Alaska Dept. of Health and Social Services says. 

You can read the full report here. 

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