Alcohol-Fueled Deaths Double in U.S. Over Past 20 Years


WEDNESDAY, Jan. 8, 2020 (HealthDay News) — The number of Americans dying from alcohol abuse each year has doubled since 1999, a new study reveals.

Between 1999 and 2017, alcohol-related deaths jumped from nearly 36,000 a year to almost 73,000. That’s about 1 million deaths lost to booze over less than two decades, with white women experiencing the greatest annual increases.

“Those deaths are associated with despair — loss of hope, loss of employment and opportunities for employment, increase in stress — leading to substance abuse and alcohol abuse,” said lead researcher Aaron White. He’s a neuroscientist with the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Rising deaths from opioid overdoses and suicide have garnered more attention than alcohol in recent years, White said.

“We sort of forget about alcohol because it’s been around for so long, but it has its fingerprints all over the increase in the deaths involved in deaths of despair,” he said.

At least 1 in 5 overdose deaths involves excessive drinking, White noted.

“We think what these data show is what we as an institute have known for quite some time, which is that alcohol causes a considerable amount of harm in our society,” he said.

For the study, White’s team reviewed death certificate data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics. They found that in 2017, alcohol abuse accounted for 2.6% of the nearly 3 million deaths in the United States.

Among these deaths, nearly 50% were from liver disease or overdoses of liquor alone or combined with other drugs, the researchers found.

Alcohol-related deaths were highest among men, people ages 45 to 74, and among Native Americans and Native Alaskans.

Deaths, however, have been increasing among all groups, especially women, White said.

“Women are at greater risk than men at comparable levels of alcohol exposure for alcohol-related cardiovascular diseases, certain cancers, alcohol-related liver disease and acute liver failure due to excessive drinking,” the study authors wrote.

That may be due to their physiology. “Because women reach higher blood alcohol levels than men of comparable weights after consuming the same amount of alcohol, their body tissues are exposed to more alcohol and acetaldehyde, a toxic metabolite of alcohol, after each drink,” the authors added.

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