Alcohol abuse kills more than three million people a year, most of the victims are men

A startling new report shows in the midst of the deadly opioid crisis, alcohol use is still responsible for 1 in 20 deaths globally. According to a World Health Organization report more than 3 million people died as a result of harmful use of alcohol in 2016.

"We live in an age where we talk about opiates and opioids and heroin, and that's with good reason. But this study shows a couple of things. One, that alcohol is still something that will injure you and that will result in your death," licensed clinical addictions counselor  Scott Watson said.

More than three quarters of these deaths were among men. Watson says the behavior associated with drinking is the bigger issue.

"Alcohol is a problem, when it's a problem. So if you've got legal issues, it's a problem. If your spouse or your kids are upset or worried about you, then it's a problem. It's not always how much you drink, it's what happens when you drink," Watson said.

The study showed 28% of alcohol related deaths were due to injuries, like traffic crashes or self harm; 21% were the result of digestive disorders; 19% were  due to cardiovascular diseases; and the rest involved other health conditions like cancer. Watson says this latest data is shocking, but he wants to send the message from his personal experience that recovery is possible.

"None of us know what is going to happen once we get into recovery. And so the first step is to realize there's a problem and to ask for help and to really let someone else be your guide from a point of problem to a better place in life," Watson said.

He says the first step should be making a global issue a conversation within your own family.

"If it starts at that grassroots family level then we can create the tidal wave of change that results in good," Watson said.

Watson runs Heartland Intervention and can help families have those difficult talks with loved ones.