New Investigative Series Spotlights Alcohol Epidemic

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation
2 min readJul 29, 2022

By Jeremiah Gardner

NOTE: This was originally published for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation’s monthly Recovery Advocacy Update. If you’d like to receive our advocacy emails, subscribe today.

In the United States, where alcohol is paired with virtually every social occasion — we have grown accustomed to beer and booze causing almost 100,000 preventable deaths a year.

We’re also used to the huge economic cost — $8 billion in Minnesota alone in 2019, according to a new study.

Alcohol-related deaths spiked even higher than usual when COVID-19 arrived. Yet, relatively speaking, there’s little public concern. Little talk of solutions.

While illicit drug trends nab most of the headlines, alcohol continues to be the most accessible, affordable and socially acceptable drug — part of the story for 90% of the patients we see at Hazelden Betty Ford.

For all of these reasons, an excellent new series by independent journalist Ted Alcorn in New Mexico caught our attention. Ted spent nine months investigating what he calls, “ an epidemic of preventable deaths seemingly hidden in plain sight: those due to alcohol.” Here’s what he shared with us about the series:

“The state’s (alcohol) death rate is extraordinary — three times the nation’s, double the deaths due to fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamines combined, among working-age people even outstripping Covid-19 — but it prefigures trends we are seeing across the country as alcohol-related harms spike everywhere. So I put a microscope on the state and its people…but this is very much a national story.

“I wound up reporting a series of seven articles (after conducting more than 150 interviews), each exploring a blind-spot that distorts New Mexico’s response to this catastrophe: overemphasizing DWI, neglecting violence, putting the blame on Native people or ‘drunks,’ and ignoring the evidence that population-based policies can shape drinking behavior and save lives. One article is an intimate portrait of how alcohol affected one man and his family. Another is a road map of what the state — and any state — can do to reverse this trend.”

“The series is available in full online and running in papers across New Mexico but I come away from this convinced that alcohol merits more attention nationwide.”

We couldn’t agree more, and appreciate the journalism.

Jeremiah Gardner is director of communications and public affairs for the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation.

Jeremiah Gardner

--

--

Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation

As a force of healing & hope for those affected by addiction, we feature insights and views from leading voices on prevention, treatment & recovery.