Alcohol-Related Deaths Have Doubled For American Adults

The journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research published a study on January 7, 2020 that analyzed the number of Americans who died from alcohol-related problems between 1999 and 2017. The researchers looked at death certificates for each year and found some concerning statistics. The number of alcohol-related deaths has increased 50.9% from 1999 to 2017. In 1999, 35,914 people died from an alcohol-related problem, while in 2017, 72,558 people died. Of the 2.8 million people that died in 2017, 2.6% of those deaths were because of alcohol.

Some of the top reasons for death were liver disease and overdose (from alcohol or alcohol mixed with other drugs). Looking at deaths caused by alcohol from 2006 to 2010, over 14 thousand deaths were from liver disease, followed by over 12 thousand deaths from motor-vehicle traffic crashes. Rates of death have increased for almost all age groups, besides ages 16 to 20 and people over 75. The highest rates of alcohol-related deaths are in males, but the number of women is rapidly increasing.

The study found that the largest annual increase of deaths from alcohol-related problems is for non-Hispanic Caucasian women. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIH), women start to have alcohol-related problems sooner than men. They also drink less alcohol than men and still have the same issues. Women’s bodies have less water in them than men, and because alcohol primarily resides in body water, a woman will have a higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) than a man who drinks the same amount.

Women who consume about 1 drink per day have up to a 9% higher chance of developing breast cancer compared to women who don’t drink alcohol. The risk increases for every additional drink they have per day. There is also a risk for women who are trying to get pregnant. Most women do not know they are pregnant until 4 to 6 weeks, and if they are consuming alcohol in that time, it could damage the development of the fetus. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that women who are attempting to get pregnant or could become pregnant should not drink.

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How Does Alcohol Effect the Body?

The number of acute alcohol-related deaths (coming on suddenly, such as car crashes or falls) increased for people ages 55 to 64. The number of chronic alcohol-related deaths (progressive, such as liver disease or hypertension) increased more for younger adults, ages 25 to 34. Alcohol abuse has long-lasting effects on a young person’s body and mind. In a separate study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, researchers found that people who had symptoms of alcohol dependence as a young person had poorer physical and mental health in their 60s. They still had negative effects even if they controlled their drinking by age 30.

The authors of the original study say that the scope of alcohol-related deaths in the United States is most likely higher than what can be gathered from the death certificates, because death certificates often don’t mention the contribution of alcohol. In conclusion, the authors wrote, “Findings confirm an increasing burden of alcohol on public health and support the need for improving surveillance of alcohol‐involved mortality.” Some suggestions from the NIH for reducing alcohol abuse include raising the taxes on alcohol, raising the minimum drinking age, including warning labels on alcohol, enforcing zero-tolerance laws, and lowering the legal BAC requirements for driving.

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