Alcohol related deaths spiked in 2020

Published: Jun. 28, 2022 at 10:29 PM CDT
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - New data published by the Iowa Department of Public Health showed a spike in alcohol-related deaths in 2020.

“I’m just lucky I survived,” said Rachel Barnhart of Iowa City.

Barnhart said she had spent 30 years of her life drinking excessively.

“I was a binge drinker, I was a problem drinker, you can call me an alcoholic, you can call me anything you want,” she said. “I would say that I was trapped in addiction for 30 years without even realizing it.”

The pandemic only made matters worse.

“It was like the depression was fueling the addiction,” she said. “That was further fueling the depression.”

836 people died in 2020. That was nearly 75 more than 2019, almost double that of 2011.

“The number has been going up over the last decade,” said UI College of Public Health Professor Dr. Paul Gilbert.

Dr. Gilbert said Barnhart’s stress brought on by the pandemic isolation happened for many. He also said parents of young children were drinking more, and the age gap was narrowing.

“Women’s drinking patterns look more and more like men’s,” he said. “We don’t see the traditional gender difference.”

Gilbert said he wanted this new data to show the need for more resources, public ad campaigns, or on the state or local level. That was something Barnhart took into her own hands by helping start the nonprofit, Iowa city Sober Living.

“I want to give people some hope because that’s what I didn’t have,” said Barnhart.

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