Scary Figure of the Day: 500,000 Alcoholics in Virginia

An article today about Virginia’s habitual drunkard law — the Legal Aid Justice Center wants federal courts to declare it unconstitutional — noted the extraordinary fact that there are 500,000 alcoholics in the state. The Richmond Times-Dispatch article did not cite a source, but the number is consistent with America’s Health Rankings data showing that 17.4% of Virginia adults report having had five or more drinks on one occasion within the last 30 days.

The good news, relatively speaking, is that the excessive drinking rate in Virginia is lower than the 19% rate nationally. The percentage of excessive drinkers ranges from a low of 12.2% in Utah to 29% … somehow I’m not surprised… in the District of Columbia.

No surprise here: Virginia men are more likely (21.1%) to engage in excessive drinking than women (13.9%), tracking national norms. Young people are more likely (24.8%) than middle-aged Virginians (13.4%) or seniors (5.7%) to binge.

City dwellers drink excessively more frequently than suburbanites, who guzzle more than rural dwellers. Whites drink more than blacks, a fact that might be tied to the fact that excessive alcohol consumption is correlated with income — higher-income people drink more than lower-income people, presumably because they can afford to.

Virginians have a lower rate of binge drinking despite the fact that median household incomes are higher in the Old Dominion than the national average. On the other hand, Virginians are slightly older than the national average, 38.2 years compared to 37.9. It would be interesting to know the age- and income-adjusted rate of alcoholism compared to other states. My sense is that such a calculation would show that Virginians partake less frequently of excessive alcoholic consumption.

That impression is confirmed by the statistic that measured by alcohol-related deaths per 100,000 population between 2006 and 2010, Virginia ranked 9th lowest among the 50 states and District of Columbia.

Are we doing something right in the public policy arena? And if so, what is it?

Does Virginia have stricter drunk-driving laws, and does that influence alcohol consumption? How about laws — and enforcement of those laws — on under-age drinking? How about the availability of alcohol rehab centers? And what about that law aimed at habitual drunkards?

In our therapeutic society, many now tend to think of alcoholism as a disease, not a character flaw. (Personally, I align with the Alcoholics Anonymous view that drinking is a choice, although alcoholism is also a progressive disease that makes it harder over time to make the choice to be sober.) Alcoholics are more likely to be pitied today than stigmatized — except when they drive. How do social attitudes, including the willingness to seek treatment, affect drinking behavior?

Finally, let us not forget in all the furor over opioid addiction that alcohol-related deaths nationally exceeded opioid-related deaths by 40% last year.

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16 responses to “Scary Figure of the Day: 500,000 Alcoholics in Virginia”

  1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Let’s try to triple down on that alcohol addiction problem in Virginia by legalizing weed. Then we got a triple pipeline – cigarettes, booze, weed – shoving Va. citizens into the harder stuff, you know, crack cocaine and it’s ilk, including gambling casinos, particularly putting those addictions into economically depressed areas with a lots of disabled and unemployed people. Then we can really cash in big time. And we can call all this effective government.

    1. djrippert Avatar

      Good point. The marijuana laws in Virginia are working really well. Making possession of small amounts of marijuana a crime has all but eliminated marijuana in Virginia. No high school kids are smoking marijuana because it is illegal and no organized crime syndicates are profiting from the sale of marijuana in Virginia. The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond has solved the problem (in much the same way that the clowns solved the transportation problem).

      If you don’t want to smoke marijuana then don’t smoke it. If you don’t want to drink alcohol then don’t drink it. If you don’t want to use tobacco then don’t don’t use tobacco. If you don’t want to eat double quarter pounders with cheese then don’t eat double quarter pounders with cheese. I assume you get the point.

    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      “Let’s try to triple down on that alcohol addiction problem in Virginia by legalizing weed. Then we got a triple pipeline … Then we can really cash in big time. And we can call all this effective government.”

      Well, it appears after today’s events we can now include Virginia government sponsored INFANTICIDE. The government of Virginia is now a death cult sponsored by a pediatric physician governor no less. And I thought Charlottesville was the bottom?

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Here is an article on the abortion issue just published. Be sure to watch the Governor’s entire statement on the matter as broadcast. The video is linked into the article.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          Here is the complete roughly 40 minute long broadcast for full context. It’s linked into this wtop report.,

        2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          Here is extract on the interview, this by Ben Domenech:

          “… Northam’s comments regarding the reason that most women seeking 3rd trimester abortions – which typically outrank gun homicides each year – are also totally incorrect. He claims they do so because of the non-viability of the fetus or fetal abnormalities. A 2013 Guttmacher study – no friend of anti-abortion activists – found this was not the case at all. Instead, it found: “Most women seeking later abortion fit at least one of five profiles: They were raising children alone, were depressed or using illicit substances, were in conflict with a male partner or experiencing domestic violence, had trouble deciding and then had access problems, or were young and nulliparous.” And: “data suggest that most women seeking later terminations are not doing so for reasons of fetal anomaly or life endangerment.”

          The political press is letting this slide. The Washington Post published a “conservatives pounce” headline which made the storm about the bill Northam was referencing, as opposed to the words he said. Pro-life politicians would be justified in responding to this egregious and purposeful media whitewash by never answering another question again without bringing it up. “Your Medicare reform would throw people off the rolls….” “Infanticide was no big deal to your paper. Next question?” As a general rule, “we don’t do profiles with outlets that support infanticide” would prove stunningly eliminationist for our political media. Either these things matter deeply, they speak to the fundamental nature of who we are and our common humanity, or they don’t. …”


  2. wonderbread Avatar

    I often wonder about the impact of the much-derided Blue laws capping % of revenue from alcohol, effectively outlawing bars. Seems like that could be an explanation for why we have a lower incidence of alcohol deaths, and also perhaps explain why Richmond has such an incredible, affordable, food scene.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      A wonderful comment by wonderbread.

      I wonder if that wonderbread rule, its application, and its wonderful result, have application elsewhere so that our human sins old as our humanity itself might be channelized along with our higher instincts into very positive cultural artifacts like a “incredible, affordable, food scene” as wonderbread teaches us.

      1. djrippert Avatar

        Richmond is a legend in its own mind. Every time I see an “RVA” bumper sticker I think back to the old “The University” bumper stickers that used to be popular. I guess most cities are that way. People in Baltimore can’t stop talking about the greatness of Charm City with their blue crabs (they’re better on the Eastern Shore). Pittsburghers will rave about Primanti Brothers sandwiches with the french fries inside the sandwich itself (tried it, didn’t like it). Chicagoans love their Chicago dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and deep dish pizza (they actually have a point – that food is great). DC has its half smokes, Philly has its cheese steaks …

        This list seems pretty accurate to me –

        Richmond is #23 which is a good showing. DC is #15 which seems a bit high to me. Portland (as in almost every list) is #1.

        I don’t see much of a correlation between blue laws and good food. If anything, I’d expect a state where there is no minimum percentage of revenue from food to have bars which all but give away “bar food” to bring in patrons for high margin booze.

        1. djrippert Avatar

          Richmond ranks as #11 for cheap eats (you have to read the body of the article) in this list …

          1. djrippert Avatar

            Gotta love this …

            Top 10 places for cheap eats in the US …

            #1 in the country – Ben’s Chili Bowl in Washington, DC

            C’mon up Jim Bacon and I’ll take you out to some real good, cheap food!!

            Nothing in Virginia although (in all honesty) I think Richmond’s Early Bird Biscuit Company should be on the list.

          2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            Well, I gotta admit, Don, I had to stuff a lot delicious drunkin’ sin down deep and far away, to claim what I claimed, after recalling wondrous nights at those sacred but small and intense watering holes like in Philly with them cheese steaks you brag on, or them bison-burgers up at Stoner’s south of Telluride, or at the Church at Wilson east of Jackson, or about anything ya drunk on at Childe Harold’s off Dupont Circle during DC’s glory days. Great bars nourish the great soul of a city, or most anyplace at all. Ask the Irish, the Welsh, the Scots, any Celt. Or a Mormon, if one new better. I’d of loved Utah even much more if I could have found a serious bar to keep spirit, body, and soul alive after its sun went down, turning all its gorgeous red canyons and sandstone spires all black and invisible like death.

          3. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            “Wilson across the Snake River WEST of Jackson,

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    A couple of things.

    1. What is the legitimate interest of the State in restricting these things?

    2. Assuming there is a legitimate interest (and I think there is) – is there some
    reason to NOT have a consistent approach to any/all of these things?

    I think right now that folks screwing around with their cell phones are a bigger problem than any of the others. It’s disease-like in it’s use on the highways.

    Finally, whatever we do in terms of taxes or fees or penalties – they ought to be used for treatment and other programs focused on these problems.

    and agree with DJ – if you want organized crime involved – do restrictive laws that send the small dealers to prison while the syndicates infest and corrupt government.

    The addictive use of these things is primarily a health issue – just as we have finally recognized with smoking and obesity… and now have cessation programs to help people to deal with these addictions.

  4. djrippert Avatar

    Why is this so hard for people from Richmond?

    ” …to 29% … somehow I’m not surprised… in the District of Columbia.”

    DC is a city, not a state.

    Median age in DC … 34.
    Median age in Virginia … 38.2.

  5. LarrytheG Avatar

    I’d support whatever approach reduces addiction and distracted driving – but restrictive laws alone don’t do that and actually put people in prison, ruin their lives and turn them into entitlement takers funded by taxpayers.

    And I’d like to see consistency in the laws with regard to different kinds of drugs and alcohol, etc… why do we have such disparate penalties depending on what kind of drug is involved?

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