Straight, No Chaser: Alcoholism and Alcohol-Related Deaths Are on the Rise

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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? In the news is reason that should change. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcoholism and the deaths related to it are on the rise. 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 2014, there were 9.6 deaths from alcohol-induced causes per 100,000 people, representing an increase of 37% since 2002.
  • Last year, more than 30,700 Americans died from causes directly related to alcohol (e.g. alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis).
  • In 2014, more people died from alcohol-induced causes (30,722) than from overdoses of prescription painkillers and heroin combined (28,647).

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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.

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.

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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.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.

Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.

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