SPRINGFIELD, Mass (WWLP) – According to the CDC, excessive drinking and driving among middle-aged adults increased during the pandemic, leading to a nearly 30 percent increase in alcohol deaths in the United States.

Chelse Byrant, Vice President of Behavioral Heatlh and Recovery Services at the Gandara Center of Springfield, said people may not realize they have a problem.

More than 140 thousand alcohol related deaths occure annually. In the United States, one in eight deaths among US adults between the ages of 20 and 64 were the result of alcohol.

“Trying to figure out how to work from home do school from home and still be able to take care of your home that was a very difficult thing for people to cope with. So everybody has different coping skills and perhaps using alcohol became somebody’s coping skills and it was more readily available,” said Bryant.

In 2020, the death rate rose to its highest point in 40 years to 26 percent, or 13 deaths per 100 Americans. Experts say the increase in drinking during the pandemic caused the jump in mortality rates.

“I think they don’t recognize it as a problem until it becomes a really big problem and they’ve gotten caught drinking and driving,” said Bryant.

“Sometimes when folks have a problem and they are not addressing it in their life it’s that car crash that really is sort of the the straw that breaks the camels back” said Mark Schieldrop, AAA Northeast.

Schieldrop said that by the time someone gets their first dui charge the statistics shows that they’ve already driven drunk more than 80 times before they have actually gotten that first dui.

For more information and support visit the Alcoholics Anonymous website.