Americans are dying more alcohol-related deaths than they have in decades

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As we move into the boozy holiday season, a word of warning: According to CDC numbers, Americans are killing themselves with alcohol at rates not seen since 1980.

The Washington Post reports:

Last year, more than 30,700 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes, including alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis, which is primarily caused by alcohol use. In 2014, there were 9.6 deaths from these alcohol-induced causes per 100,000 people, an increase of 37 percent since 2002.


It gets worse. The Post explained that "in 2014, more people died from alcohol-induced causes (30,722) than from overdoses of prescription painkillers and heroin combined (28,647), according to the CDC."

The figures don't include deaths from drunk driving, murders committed while drunk, and other intoxication induced accidents. Once we factor those in, the number of alcohol-related deaths jumps to about 90,000 in 2014.

The Post points out that in general, people are drinking at least once a month at slightly higher rates than they used to. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, that figure went from 54.9% in 2002 to 56.9% in 2014. Women's drinking habits have seen pronounced change over time—according to one study, women are drinking more and more often.

According to the Post, the spike in alcohol-related deaths could be because Americans are drinking more in general, or because alcohol-related diseases disproportionately affect older people, and our population is aging.


And moderate drinkers should keep in mind before Christmas is that going from almost no drinks throughout the year to too many drinks in late December comes with its own set of risks. The Cleveland Clinic explains:

Holiday heart [syndrome] can happen if you don’t typically drink alcohol, but then have a few at a holiday party or you binge-drink and then develop an irregular heartbeat, called atrial fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation increases your risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure.


Here's to being teetotallers in the coming year.

Danielle Wiener-Bronner is a news reporter.

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