Caleb’s Concept: Why is AA not considered essential business?

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Caleb Garbuio, Opinion Editor

Alcoholism kills 88,000 people annually, making it the third largest cause of death in the U.S. Unlike other diseases, alcoholism cannot be cured. 

The good news is that organizations such as Alcoholics Anonymous recognize the problem alcohol poses by offering free treatment.

Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic has forced AA to evolve. Gatherings of 10 or more people are now banned in an effort to halt the pandemic. These measures have forced AA to meet on Zoom, the Watauga AA hotline said. This is bad news because AA offers more than treatment. It gives alcoholics a community, a place where people can relate to their struggle of overcoming alcohol. This no longer exists.

Yes, Zoom meetings are still taking place, and people are still sharing their stories. However, why should treatment aimed at treating alcohol not be considered essential business? If alcoholism is considered a disease, and it is according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, then it should remain open.

Or better yet, can someone please explain why ABC stores, a government monopoly that distributes hard liquor, is considered an essential business, while a non profit organization designed to treat alcohol isn’t?

This disease, if left unchecked, ravages a user’s mind, body and soul. AA helps people get back on their feet and live a better life. According to the North Carolina Injury and Violence Prevention Branch, people aged 20-34 lost 83,326 years from their lives. In other words, excessive use of alcohol causes people to live shorter lives.

In 2018, Watauga County’s Emergency Department reported that 332 visits out of 100,000 are caused by alcohol, which is 10.1 visits higher than North Carolina’s rate.  Therefore, alcoholism has a greater impact in Watauga than the rest of the state.

However, there is an absence of data correlating whether or not permanent residents are consuming alcohol at a higher rate than other counties. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 23.5% of alcoholism dependency falls among people aged 18-24. Based on App State’s website, there were 19,280 students in the Fall 2019 semester and current data suggests that 16,916 students are under 25. Thus, the ER visitation rate caused by alcohol is higher for Watauga since college students are the likeliest to suffer from alcoholism.

However, we have to do some additional diggin to find the probability that an App State student is an alcoholic. Based on the National Center for Education Statistics findings, there are 30.8 million people in the U.S. aged 18-24 or 13% of the country. According to the National Institute of Health, 14.4 million Americans older than 18 suffer from alcoholism or 4.4%. Therefore, the probability of being 18-24 and an alcoholic is 3%. Meaning there are around 495 App State students suffering from alcoholism.

This is problematic for Watauga county because both the county and the university rely on one another. As students continue to consume alcohol, then ER visits will only continue to increase. Yet, there are treatment options that can mitigate the effects that alcoholism can cause.

As COVID-19 continues to alter the lives we previously took for granted, I ask the readers to think carefully about what businesses and organizations should be considered essential. Based on the evidence presented above, AA should be considered essential and allowed to remain open as a support system.