Americans are drinking themselves to death at record rates

Posted Dec 25, 2015 by Karen Graham
It is a statistic that we shouldn't be proud of, but here it is: Here in America, we are drinking ourselves to death, and we seem to be getting very good at it, too.
Patrik Stollarz, AFP/File
According to new federal data published in the University-Herald, the consumption of alcohol in the U.S. has reached an all-time high, with 31,000 deaths attributed to alcohol in 2014, a 37 percent increase since 2002. Alcohol-induced deaths beat out deaths from overdoses of prescription painkillers and heroin combined (28,647).
We are talking about alcohol-induced deaths and not alcohol-related deaths. There is a big difference. Deaths from alcohol abuse, or an alcohol-induced death, can include cirrhosis of the liver, seizures, alcohol poisoning, kidney failure, heart disease, gastrointestinal bleeding, and the list goes on.
Alcohol-related deaths, sadly usually happen to an innocent bystander, driver or passenger in a vehicle hit by a drunk driver, or other fatalities, like homicides caused by someone under the influence of alcohol. An alcohol-related death can also include the person doing the drinking, who is so inebriated they do something stupid.
Philip J. Cook is a Duke University professor who studies alcohol consumption patterns and their effects, according to the Washington Post. Cook says he has noticed alcohol consumption in the U.S. has been rising steadily since the 1990s.
"Since the prevalence of heavy drinking tends to follow closely with per capita consumption, it is likely that one explanation for the growth in alcohol-related deaths is that more people are drinking more," he wrote in an email.
Cook also pointed out that women have been drinking increasingly more, with monthly consumption rising from 47.9 percent in 2002 to 51.9 percent in 2014. Binge drinking in women also rose. Binge-drinking is defined as drinking five or more drinks on at least one occasion.
The professor also noted that when alcohol fatality rates were adjusted for age, the increases seen narrows a bit. That's because older people are more at risk for alcohol-induced diseases. And we must remember that the American population, like other nations, is getting older. "Once you adjust for age, the increase in alcohol deaths could plausibly be accounted for by the growth in per capita consumption," Cook said.
Of course, it goes to say that the greatest risk for alcohol-induced deaths is directly related to the heaviest drinkers. According to previous research by Cook, The top 10 percent of American adults consume the lion's share of alcohol in this country — close to 74 drinks a week on average. The easiest way to see this is to say this amounts to 10 drinks a day.