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Alcoholism and Alcohol-Related Deaths Are on the Rise

By Jeffrey Sterling, MD August 20, 2019

Introduction

This Straight, No Chaser post reviews the rate of rise of alcohol-related deaths.

alcoholaddictionchains

Does it seem that alcoholism isn’t discussed much anymore, or is it that the public health community has focused more on overdose deaths from heroin and prescription painkillers of late? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcoholism and the deaths related to it are on the rise.

Alcohol-related deaths

Consider the sum total of the following statistics:

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  • Alcohol is killing Americans at a rate higher than at any time in the last 35 years. In 2015, there were 10.3 thousand deaths from alcohol-induced causes per 100,000 people, representing an increase of 47% since 2002.
  • During 2014, alcohol-impaired driving fatalities accounted for 9,967 deaths (31 percent of overall driving fatalities).
  • In 2014, more people died from alcohol-induced causes (30,722) than from overdoses of prescription painkillers and heroin combined (28,647).

alcohol-related deaths

In reality, the annual number of deaths directly or indirectly caused by alcohol is closer to 90,000, as the official count of alcohol-induced fatalities excludes deaths from drunk driving, other accidents, and homicides committed under the influence of alcohol. This makes alcohol related deaths the 3rd leading cause of preventable deaths in the United States.

Where do you fit in this equation? Here’s the deal: 30% of American adults don’t drink at all. Another 30% consume less than one drink per week (on average). On the other hand, the top 10% of American adults (approximately 24 million people) consume an average of 74 drinks per week, or a little more than 10 drinks per day. The heaviest drinkers are at the greatest risk for the alcohol-induced causes of death.

alcohol abuse

An easy way to minimize your risk, assuming you’re going to drink, is to restrict your alcohol intake at any one time to 2 drinks per day. The especially good news is that level – defined as moderate alcohol consumption – is actually associated with a decreased risk of mortality.

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