Six People Die Every Day From Alcohol Poisoning
More than 2,000 people die from alcohol poisoning every year in the U.S., according to a new report by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which breaks down to about six fatalities every day. People dealing with alcohol dependence (i.e., alcoholism) are among the most commonly affected population groups.
Alcohol poisoning is the common term for an alcohol overdose, which occurs when the high level of alcohol circulating in a person’s body leads to a shutdown of the normal function of one or more vital organs. In its January 2015 report, the CDC examined recent trends in the number of alcohol overdose-related deaths that occur every day across the country. In addition, the agency performed a detailed breakdown of those segments of the population most likely to experience fatal episodes of alcohol poisoning.
Alcohol use is widely accepted as a part of recreational social life across the U.S. and much of the rest of the world. Despite this fact, alcohol is poisonous to humans, even when consumed at the seemingly harmless rate of one standard drink (0.6 oz. of pure alcohol) per hour. Commonly experienced manifestations of alcohol’s toxic effects include the relatively minor changes in thinking and body control associated with mild intoxication, as well as the more obvious mental and physical alterations associated with the minimum threshold for legal drunkenness. Most people end their drinking sessions before going far beyond the elevated blood-alcohol content associated with legally defined intoxication. However, some people continue to drink and subsequently seriously increase their chances of experiencing alcohol poisoning.
At its core, alcohol poisoning is the result of an alcohol-induced slowdown of some of the normally automatic body processes controlled by the central nervous system. Specific potential symptoms of the condition include alcohol-related loss of consciousness or failure to wake up after falling asleep, alcohol-related vomiting, alcohol-related convulsions, a seriously reduced breathing rate after consuming alcohol and the development of an unusually low body temperature. A person in the midst of an alcohol overdose can easily die from causes that include suppression of the normal urge to breath and vomiting-related choking. People who binge drink (drink enough alcohol to get drunk in an hour or two) have especially elevated risks for alcohol poisoning. (Regular binge drinkers also have increased risks for diagnosable alcoholism and/or alcohol abuse.)
How Often Do People Die?
In the report published in January 2015, researchers from the CDC looked at the number of Americans who died from alcohol poisoning in 2010, 2011 and 2012. They concluded that an average of 2,200 people died from this cause in each of the years under consideration. When looked at from a detailed perspective, this number of deaths is equivalent to roughly six fatalities every day.
Which People Have the Highest Risks?
The CDC notes that several population groups have elevated chances of dying from alcohol poisoning. For example, fully 30 percent of all alcohol overdose-related fatalities across the U.S. occur in people known to have problems associated with the presence of alcoholism, one of the two aspects of the diagnosable condition known as alcohol use disorder. In terms of age, the population group most heavily affected by fatal episodes of alcohol poisoning is adults between the ages of 45 and 54; 34 percent of all such episodes occur among people in this age range. The next highest age-related rates for fatal poisoning events occur among adults between the ages of 35 and 44 and adults between the ages of 55 and 64; each of these groups accounts for 21 percent of all alcohol poisoning fatalities. Risks in all other age groups are substantially lower.
In terms of gender, men die from alcohol poisoning three times more often than women. In terms of racial/ethnic background, people of Caucasian descent experience the highest total number of alcohol overdose-related deaths. However, people of American Indian/Alaska Native descent have the nation’s highest per-capita number of such deaths. In terms of geography, the highest rates for fatal alcohol poisoning episodes appear in the following states: Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Alaska, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Minnesota and Rhode Island.
In addition to binge drinking, risks for lethal episodes of alcohol poisoning may be linked to a lack of awareness about the standard size of an alcohol serving. Regardless of the size of the drink you consume, all standard servings contain the same 0.6 oz. of pure alcohol. People unaware of this fact may inadvertently underestimate their alcohol intake by a significant amount.