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Excessive alcohol consumption is a public health concern.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),4 excessive drinking causes more than 95,000 deaths in the United States every year.
This equates to 261 alcohol-related deaths every day.
Over half of those who have lost their lives to alcohol suffered from the long-term health effects of excessive drinking. These effects include certain types of cancers, liver disease, and heart disease.
Others were killed in motor vehicle accidents and overdoses that also involved other substances.
Regardless of how they died, their deaths shortened their lives by an average of nearly 29 years.
This adds up to a total of 2.8 million years of potential life lost to excessive alcohol consumption.
Around the world, people die from alcohol use every day — three million every year, according to the World Health Organization.1 This represents 5.3 percent of all deaths worldwide.
Moreover, alcohol is responsible for 5.1 percent of the global burden of disease and injury.
In other words, if alcohol isn’t killing people directly, it’s causing diseases and injuries that can.
According to a recent study, alcohol-related death rates in the United States since 1999 have doubled among people who are at least 16 years old. 17
There were one million alcohol-related deaths between 1999 and 2017.
There could be a whole host of reasons behind this increase. For example, alcohol is largely linked to depression,7 and depression has, too, been on the rise.
In fact, depression has tripled since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.9
Plus, the rise of social media in recent years has led to a constant fear of missing out and the need to compare oneself to others. That alone has upped depression rates.14
The risk of mortality increases the more often someone drinks.12
While heavy drinkers are at the highest risk of alcohol-related mortality, moderate drinkers still face some level of risk.
For example, in 2016, 10,497 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes.15 These drunk driving accidents accounted for 28 percent of all traffic-related deaths nationwide.
Some of the most common alcohol-related deaths include heart disease, cancer, and liver disease. Heavy use of alcohol, like all excessive substance use, can take a significant toll.
On average, six people die of alcohol poisoning every day in the United States.3
Many more people lose their lives to overdoses that involve other substances, including prescription drugs.
But the leading causes of alcohol-related deaths relate to longer-term diseases.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.6 This is true for both men and women across the board.
In the U.S., someone dies from heart disease every 36 seconds. This adds up to about 655,000 deaths every year. It also equates to one in every four deaths across the country.
Alcohol misuse can lead to high blood pressure and other health conditions that cause strokes and heart disease over time.5
Heavy drinking can increase one’s risk of developing certain types of cancer.
Alcohol consumption causes between 3.2 to 3.7 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States each year.11
From 2013 to 2016 alone, alcohol consumption was linked to 75,000 new cancer diagnoses and nearly 19,000 cancer-related deaths each year.13
Mouth and throat cancer is largely linked to alcohol. Almost half of new diagnoses are related to drinking alcohol in most states.10
Alcohol is one of the leading causes of liver disease. Liver disease is also a leading cause of death in the U.S.
Liver cirrhosis was the 12th leading cause of death in the country in 2015.8 Specifically, 42,443 people died that year, which was 2,494 more people than the year before.
Among the number of alcohol-related deaths linked to liver cirrhosis in 2015, nearly half (49.5) percent were alcohol-related.
Anyone can develop alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol intake, despite the consequences
Binge drinkers and heavy drinkers are at higher risks of developing AUD over time.16 But other factors also contribute.
People who start drinking at an early age are up to five times more likely to report having AUD as those who waited until the legal drinking age.
Likewise, people who have a family history of alcohol problems are at risk of developing their own. About 60 percent of alcoholism is tied to genetics.
This is also because parents’ drinking habits can influence their children’s patterns.
Mental health also plays a role.
Mental health conditions linked to AUD include:
Those who still cope with childhood traumas are also at a higher risk.
That said, anyone can develop a drinking problem. If you, a loved one, or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse or alcohol addiction, seek professional help. You don’t have to navigate the road to recovery alone.
To reduce your risk of health problems from alcohol, be smart about how much and how often you drink — if you choose to drink at all. If you are going to drink, drink moderately.
Moderate alcohol use typically means up to one drink per day for women and up to two drinks per day for men.2 This might be a standard beer (12 fluid ounces) or two, or a standard glass of wine (five fluid ounces) or two.
If you are dealing with a mental illness that may be driving you to want to drink, get professional help.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy and traditional talk psychotherapy can help you unpack your triggers and find healthier coping mechanisms.
Addiction treatment is available. Consider inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation facilities, support groups, therapy, holistic health programs, and medication-assisted addiction treatment.
Talk to your healthcare provider about what’s right for you, and explore the options and resources available to you.
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