Thursday, 7 Dec 2023

Climate change is making us party like the world is ending

As Earth warms up, people are turning more to drink and drugs, it appears.

Researchers have found that the number of alcohol and drug-related hospital visits has increased as a result of hotter temperatures and climate change.

Author of the study Columbia University, Robbie M Parks, said: ‘We saw that during periods of higher temperatures, there was a corresponding increase in hospital visits related to alcohol and substance use, which also brings attention to some less obvious potential consequences of climate change.’

The study, published in the journal Communications Medicine, is the first to investigate the association between climate change, alcohol and drug use.

They focused on cannabis, cocaine, opioids and sedatives in the state of New York.

It was found that the warmer it is, the more hospital visits from alcohol.

This, they suspect, was because the warmer it is, the more time people spend outside drinking and taking part in riskier activities. It also means that there’s a higher chance of dehydration or driving under the influence.

With regard to controlled drugs like weed, coke and heroin, higher temperatures also resulted in more hospital visits, but only up to a limit of 18.8°C.

Researchers believe this temperature limit was because people were not likely to go outside above a certain temperature.

They suggested that future research might examine the role of existing health conditions exacerbated by alcohol and substance use combined with rising temperatures.

The authors noted that their study may underestimate the link between temperature rise and substance use disorders because the most severe disorders may have resulted in deaths before a hospital visit was possible.

Going forward, the researchers might attempt to link cases of deaths with hospital visit records to create a fuller picture of patients’ medical history. 

They used data from 671,625 alcohol- and 721,469 substance-related disorder hospital visits over 20 years and a comprehensive record of daily temperatures and humidity.

The study used a statistical model which compared days with high temperatures with nearby days with lower temperatures to understand the impact of short-term climate-related phenomena such as heatwaves.

These findings could inform policy on proactive assistance of alcohol- and substance-vulnerable communities during hotter temperatures.

‘Public health interventions that broadly target alcohol and substance disorders in warmer weather—for example, targeted messaging on the risks of their consumption during warmer weather—should be a public health priority,’ said senior author Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou.

In the UK, alcohol-specific deaths have risen sharply since 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

The rates seen in 2020 and 2021 were statistically significantly higher than 2019 and any other year since the start of records in 2001.

Drug overdose deaths have increased more than five times since the end of the 20th century.

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