How Many People Have Died From Alcohol?

An estimated 88,000 people (approximately 62,000 men and 26,000 women) die from alcohol-related causes annually, making alcohol abuse the fourth-leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.4

  • In 2015, 138.3 million people in the U.S. aged 12 or older reported current use of alcohol.
  • 66.7 million reported binge drinking in the past month and 17.3 million reported heavy alcohol use within a 30-day period.
  • Of those, an estimated 15.7 million had an alcohol use disorder.
  • While addiction is a risk factor, a person does not have to be addicted to die from alcohol poisoning, cirrhosis of the liver or alcohol’s many other health complications.3

What Are Some of the Causes of Alcohol-Related Deaths?

Causes of death attributable to alcohol-induced mortality included the following:10

  • Alcohol-induced pseudo-Cushing’s syndrome
  • Mental and behavioral disorders due to alcohol use
  • Degeneration of nervous system due to alcohol
  • Alcoholic polyneuropathy
  • Alcoholic myopathy
  • Alcoholic cardiomyopathy
  • Alcoholic gastritis
  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Alcohol-induced acute pancreatitis
  • Alcohol-induced chronic pancreatitis
  • Finding alcohol in blood in toxicology reports
  • Accidental poisoning

What Are Some of the Alcohol-Related Mortality Risk Factors?

Short-Term Health Risks

  • Fatal injuries including falls and drowning
  • Homicides and suicides
  • Alcohol poisoning
  • Miscarriage, stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs)

Long-Term Health Risks

  • Potentially fatal high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease and digestive problems
  • Cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, liver and colon
  • Alcoholic hepatitis

Other Alcohol-Related Mortality Statistics

  • An estimated 2,200 people lose their lives to alcohol poisoning every year in the U.S., which equates to six a day.
  • From 2010 to 2012, an estimated 76% of alcohol poisoning deaths were among adults aged 35-64.
  • Alaska had the most alcohol-poisoning deaths per million people, while Alabama had the least. Alcohol dependence was identified as a factor in 30% of alcohol poisoning deaths.11
  • As early as 1980, research studies suggested women who consumed at least one alcoholic beverage per day during pregnancy had a more than threefold risk of spontaneous miscarriage, mainly during the second trimester, compared to women who did not drink or those who drank moderately.13
  • A 2008 study of more than 600,000 births found a statistically significant 40% increase in the likelihood of stillbirths in women who consumed any amount of alcohol compared to those who did not consume any alcohol.
  • An earlier study indicated consuming more than five drinks per week led to a threefold increase in stillbirth risk, even after adjusting for potentially confounding socioeconomic and lifestyle factors.14
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 35,092 people in the U.S. died in traffic crashes in 2015. Of these, an estimated 10,265 people were killed in drunk driving crashes involving a driver with a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater. Among the people killed in these drunk driving crashes, 67% (6,865) were in crashes in which at least one driver had a BAC of .15 or higher.8

Underage Drinking Facts and Stats

Underage use is rampant throughout the U.S. and alcohol remains the substance most widely used by today’s teenagers.5

  • All 50 states and the District of Columbia currently prohibit possession of alcoholic beverages by individuals younger than 21, and most prohibit consumption of alcoholic beverages prior to that age.
  • In 2015, about 7.7 million people aged 12-20 reported drinking alcohol over a period of 30 days, including 5.1 million who reported binge drinking and 1.3 million who reported heavy alcohol use.
  • The same year, 623,000 or 2.5% of adolescents aged 12-17 had a past-year alcohol use disorder.
  • Despite recent declines, six out of every 10 students (61%) have consumed alcohol (more than just a few sips) by the end of high school, and about 23% have done so by 8th grade.
  • In 2016, nearly half (46%) of 12th-graders and 9% of 8th-graders reported getting drunk at least once in their life.

Teenage Drinking and Driving Figures

Based on 2006-2010 data, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates alcohol is a factor in the deaths of 4,358 young people aged 21 and younger every year. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death among American teens, and many of these crashes involve alcohol. In fact, 20% of teen drivers involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents have alcohol in their system.7

  • Among the 61.4% of students nationwide who drove a car or other vehicle during the 30 days before being surveyed, 7.8% had driven one or more times when they had been drinking alcohol.
  • The prevalence of having driven a car or other vehicle after drinking alcohol was higher among males (9.5%) than females (6%).
  • The state with the highest prevalence of high school students who ever drank alcohol was Montana at 69.9% and the lowest was Virginia at 50.7%.
  • In the 20 states in which this set of data was gathered, the state with the highest prevalence of 10 or more drinks in a row was West Virginia at 7.4% and the lowest was Virginia at 2.1%.

Which Celebrities Died of Alcohol-Related Diseases?

Alcoholism knows no boundaries, taking a serious toll on celebrities and common folk alike. Some die from alcohol poisoning, while others succumb from disease directly caused by alcoholism.1,2

  • Amy Winehouse: On July 23, 2011, the Grammy-award winning singer was found dead at her London home. After a long battle with alcohol and drug addiction, she died from alcohol poisoning at age 27. Her blood-alcohol content was more than five times the legal limit.
  • John Bonham: The Led Zeppelin drummer died at age 32 in September 1980. It was later determined Bonham had consumed more than 40 shots of vodka, eventually vomiting and choking to death. His official cause of death was asphyxiation caused by alcohol.
  • Jack Kerouac: Author of the famed Beat generation novel, On The Road, the story reflects the author’s real-life attachment to alcohol. Kerouac was a die-hard alcoholic and ultimately suffered its consequences. On October 20, 1969, he suffered internal bleeding as a result of cirrhosis of the liver. Despite surgical attempts to save him, he lost his life the next day at age 47. His death was caused by an internal hemorrhage (bleeding esophageal varices) caused by cirrhosis, the result of longtime alcohol abuse, along with complications from an untreated hernia and bar fight injuries incurred several weeks prior to his death.
  • W.C. Fields: “Always carry a flagon of whiskey in case of snakebite. Furthermore, always carry a small snake.” While Fields frequently mentioned alcohol in a lighthearted fashion in his comedy routines, he was an alcoholic in real life. At the time of his death, Fields was being treated in a sanitarium for alcoholism. On Christmas Day, 1946, he died at age 66 from a gastric hemorrhage caused by years of hard drinking.
  • Veronica Lake: Beautiful and glamorous, this actress was well-known for her femme fatale roles in films of the 1940s. Before turning 30, Lake’s health started to decline. She had been diagnosed with schizophrenia in her teens and struggled with recurrences throughout her adult life. To compound this issue, she was addicted to alcohol. Lake died at age 50 on July 7, 1973, from alcohol-related hepatitis and alcoholism.
  • Mickey Mantle: One of the greatest sluggers of all time, Mantle was plagued by alcoholism throughout his baseball career. By the time he sought addiction treatment, his liver was severely damaged by cirrhosis, as well as hepatitis C. When he received a liver transplant, doctors discovered he also had inoperable liver cancer. On Aug. 13, 1995, just two months after the transplant, Mantle lost his battle to alcoholism-related liver cancer at age 63.

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