Ohio was one of a handful of states to commit early to the war on prescription opioids and has poured billions into those efforts on an annual basis. Ohio’s Prescription Drug Monitoring Program alone costs in excess of $1 billion annually to maintain. To listen to state leaders, the state is all-in on fighting the war on drugs, but their attitudes towards alcohol are less so, turning a blind eye to the contributions which alcohol makes to addiction and its comorbid use with other drugs. Nothing more could underscore that than this move to make liquor by the drink and liquor stores available during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nationwide the addiction rate to alcohol runs at 6.6%, and with Ohio’s 1.9 million population that’s 6,600 alcohol-dependent individuals per 100,000 population or 125,400 people. Whereas opioid addiction runs at 0.78% or 780 opioid-dependent Ohioans per 100,000 population, and 100 times less if you limit that estimate to prescribed opioids. That means alcohol addiction is 840 times more prevalent than prescription opioid addiction.
What’s wrong with this picture you may ask? Naturally, the justification for this is in part is a financial one, considering the loss of revenue for restaurant and liquor store owners. But with a statewide crackdown on physicians prescribing opioids, can such a move for these businesses be justified?
Addicts and alcoholics are known to be in denial about their substance misuse, but I’d have to say, denial is not limited to substance users alone. Its time the government starts taking a harder look at the blind eye they turn to alcohol or balance the equation by pulling back on the restrictions placed on doctors for treating painful conditions. Especially in those who have been treated with opioids for years without succumbing to their potentially addictive qualities.
The argument made to justify this action was this, without giving a pass to the sale of alcohol as an essential business, the healthcare system would be flooded with thousands of people in alcohol withdrawal, at a time when that system needed to be focused on treating the virus. This is a prudent choice, but once the state is past this crisis, will it take a harder look at this behavior when regulating alcohol sales?
It’s doubtful, returning to the same denial and justifications that alcohol addiction and abuse are at acceptable levels, even though the addiction rate to alcohol is 1,000 times that of medicinal opioids. And in doing so, proving once again that the so-called war on prescription opioids is an ideological war and not one based on science, data, and reality.
Proof of this double standard and the apparent denial may be seen in the smirk on Governor DeWine’s face as he announces rolling back the law to make alcohol accessible during the statewide COVID-19 shutdown.
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