Tag Archives: Alcohol Deaths

Make it Right, Bud Light

Bud Light’s Marketing Campaign

Bud-Light“The perfect beer to remove ‘no’ from your vocabulary” was the tag line on bottles of Bud Light as part of their “up for whatever” campaign. This is the height of irresponsibility in the alcohol industry. It’s patently offensive that the beer, wine and distilled spirits lobbies inject this substance into the culture with low tax and recession resistant impunity. Alcohol companies are notorious for “drink responsibly” messaging, only to counter it with this, showing their true intention.

The CDC estimates 88,000 deaths annually from alcohol and a staggering 2.5 million years of potential life lost by shortening lives due to alcohol use. (Alcohol fact sheet cdc.gov).

Taking Action Against the Beer & Wine Industry

Alcohol is a very dangerous psychoreactive substance with massive consequences and somehow, it never pays the piper. Contrast this with an alternative form of intoxication, marijuana, with a death toll of ZERO annually. It matters that the beer and wine industry facilitate alcohol moving stealthy among us, taking lives and wrecking havoc in families and communities. It matters that we demonize marijuana users and distributors when it is by any measure, safer than alcohol.

Alcohol TaxationFor years we have been told to “designate a driver” an innocuous message and one that may save lives but it presumes that is the only thing wrong with excessive alcohol use is impaired driving. The “designate a driver” culture doesn’t take into account that rates of sexual assault rise with the use of alcohol. Bud Light issued an apology and will stop this ad campaign but you can’t unring a bell. The posturing about safety doesn’t really help the social problems associated with alcohol. Today, Bud Light showed their cards, it’s time to hold alcohol companies accountable for the damage done by the product that makes them rich. The state of Virginia hasn’t seen a tax raise on Alcohol since the 70’s. A .10/100 tax per unit of beer sold in the state would yield $169,000,000 annual revenue. That would mean positioned drop in centers throughout the state and admission for state of the art treatment for the asking. When families struggle to find treatment, yes, insurance companies are scum but we are all complicit in this insanity. Write your congressman and demand a tax raise on beer dedicated for alcohol abuse services. It can be done.

Paradise Lost

Paradise Lost
On a happy note, the young man in this story is over a year sober, has a job, and building a life. It happens.

Insufficient Alcohol Abuse Treatment Options on Maui

It’s no secret why 2.2 million people visit the island of Maui each year: the beauty, the weather, the recreation. That tourism is supported by a residential population of just 163,000, most of whom work in service industry jobs. And it’s not the locals that are consuming what the Maui county liquor authority reports as $250 million in annual liquor sales. The island is awash in millions of drunk visitors. And the problem cases are all supported by a tiny hospital with an ER staff that sees cases of alcohol poisoning daily. They’re so busy that they’re forced to turn away patients who are not stable enough to be out of a hospital setting. It’s a crisis situation, nothing less.

I’m the founder of Williamsburg House, the first sober house in NYC (in Williamsburg) as well as a long-time practitioner of interventions and crisis management. I know my craft, and I know how to talk to ER nurses, paramedics, police, and judges. I thought I was capable of negotiating any system — I operate a residential sober facility in Brooklyn, for God’s sake — but I have never seen anything like I saw in Maui.
Called in May 2015 to help a man in crisis, I arrived in Maui after a 17-hour journey to find my identified patient, and his harried mother and aunt. They told me a tale of bringing their alcoholic 26-year-old son/nephew to this one hospital on Maui at 6am, only to be turned away with no medication and no referral. In my arrogance, I thought, “The calvary is here, step aside ladies. Maybe go to the spa or take a walk on the beach while I get this young man sober.” What I found was a 26 year old man in acute intoxication, the kind of bone-saturating drunk that you’d see in a cartoonish depiction of alcoholism in a black and white movie. He was incoherent, rambling, and clutching a bottle of Captain Morgan. After a few hours of sparring with him I made the call to 911 to get him admitted to the ER for detox. The Maui police showed up, annoyed, and without compassion. “You should have taken him to rehab before this,” said one of the officers. “Be that as it may, ‘surfer dies of alcohol poisoning in rat hole Maui hotel room, after police left annoyed’ sounds like a shitty headline, wouldn’t you say?” I replied with NYC snark that did nothing to help my cause. Nevertheless, the paramedics did eventually take my client to the ER which started a process of discovery about this island paradise.

Seeking Safe Alcohol Detox

The charge nurse told me that she literally cannot care for the high numbers of cases of alcohol poisoning she sees every single day. She refers most of them to a treatment center that provides detox. But the treatment center told me their next available bed was in July. “July?” I asked incredulously. “He’ll be dead by then.” “More then likely” was the matter of fact response laced with frustration and a spoonful of sadness. Alcohol detox is a very dangerous process and can result in death. There are 88,000 deaths annually chalked up to alcohol and the detox is one of the primary causes. While the culture demonizes heroin use, the truth is, a heroin detox won’t kill you, but an alcohol detox will. So why, on an Island with 2.2 million visitors per year and $250 million in annual liquor sales are services to treat the byproduct of all this fun so abysmal?

With the huge number in liquor sales, a safety net would seem not only feasible but a moral imperative. Maui is likely not unique in this problem. While we focus on other drugs of abuse, and well we should, we seem to lose sight of alcohol. We can do better than this. We must do better than this. Alcoholics are not disposable people. We are not a blight on society who deserve substandard care because we “did it to ourselves”. There was a happy outcome in this case. The family was thrilled when six months after these events, the young son came on time, sober, and appropriately dressed for his sister’s wedding. Sadly, that is an all too rare outcome.