CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) – Local health leaders say the pandemic has brought to light disturbing trends in Iowa on alcohol consumption and abuse.
Aurion Redding is a Wartburg College student studying public health. On campus, she sees the impacts of alcohol use and alcohol abuse in young people.
“A lot of especially in Iowa game day, and all that, that’s often geared around beer or alcohol use,” said Redding. “I also have noticed there is an increase in students, even students that don’t usually consume alcohol, this is where they at now because they don’t know what else to do with life. They are stressed. They are losing out on things, and they needed an outlet.”
It’s not an isolated issue. Dr. Paul Gilbert says numbers are trending upwards throughout the state, especially with the COVID 19 pandemic.
“Iowans are consistently above the national average in terms of binge drinking episodes,” said Gilbert. “With more drinking, we are poised to see more harms related to it, like car crashes, or lost work time.”
Gilbert was one of a group of health experts, lawmakers, and others discussing the alcohol crisis in Iowa, and the impacts emerging, including more cases of liver disease, and alcohol-related deaths.
One lawmakers say alcohol policies need to be addressed, specifically surrounding access.
“The state of Iowa is passing more and more what I would call alcohol-permissive bills and not investing in treatment, education or public health infrastructure,” said Iowa Senator Claire Celsi. “Even since I’ve been here, there is to-go, drive-up liquor in our restaurants now that have been made permanent.”
Celsi supports putting some of the state’s COVID 19 money towards treatment and says raising liquor taxes for education and prevention is also an idea.
Other prevention experts agree with some of her suggestions.
“Really not allowing additional access to alcohol through delivery would be nice not to add that,” said Katya Boltanova. “It was already not good when we had alcohol available to buy at gas stations because who works at gas stations in rural areas, a lot of times it’s young people.”
For Redding, as a student herself, the issue comes down to more resources and education on campuses.
“Can campuses learn from prevention experts as to how to help their students cope in a better way,” she said.
Gilbert says, although 20% of adult Iowans are abusing alcohol, the impacts are far reaching and stretch beyond just the drinker, but to family, friends, co-workers and others in their circle, and can have lifelong impacts if not addressed.
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