Alcohol-Related Deaths

How Many People Die From Alcohol in the U.S. Every Year?

Excessive alcohol consumption is a public health concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC),(4) excessive drinking is the culprit behind more than 95,000 deaths in the United States every single year. That equates to 261 alcohol-related deaths each and every day.

More than half of those who have lost their lives to alcohol suffered from the long-term health effects of drinking too much. These include certain types of cancers, liver disease, and heart disease. But some people were also killed in motor vehicle accidents and overdoses that also involved other substances.

More than half of those who have lost their lives to alcohol suffered from the long-term health effects of drinking too much. These include certain types of cancers, liver disease, and heart disease. But some people were also 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.

In fact, excessive alcohol use is such a leading cause of preventable death in the United States, it cost the country $249 billion in 2010.

How Many People Die From Alcohol Worldwide Every Year?

Around the world, people die from alcohol use every single day. In fact, the world witnesses three million alcohol-attributable deaths 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.

Why Have Alcohol-Related Deaths Doubled Since 1999?

Since 1999, alcohol-related death rates in the United States have doubled among people who are at least 16 years old, according to a recent study published recently in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research by researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.(17)

Specifically, the amount of alcohol‐related deaths per year among people of at least 16 years old doubled from 35,914 to 72,558. The rate also increased 50.9% from 16.9 to 25.5 per 100,000. The study suggests that about one million alcohol-related deaths were recorded from 1999 to 2017. In fact, in 2017, 2.6 percent of the about 2.8 million deaths in the United States involved alcohol in some way, shape, or form.

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 amid the COVID-19 pandemic.(9) Plus, the rise of social media in recent years has led to people’s constant fear of missing out and need to compare themselves to each other’s highlight reels. That alone has upped depression rates.(14)

Alcohol Consumption and Risk of Mortality

The risk of mortality increases the more (and 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. Non-drinkers even face risk because they may be unfortunate victims in motor vehicle crashes.

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 across the country.

What are the Most Common Alcohol-Related Deaths? 

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.

Alcohol Consumption and All-Cause Mortality

People die from excessive alcohol consumption every single day. 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.

Alcohol Consumption and Heart Disease Mortality

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.

One person dies every 36 seconds in the United States due to heart disease. This adds up to about 655,000 Americans who die from it every year. That equates to about one in every four deaths across the country.

Alcohol misuse can lead to high blood pressure and other health conditions that cause strokes and cardiovascular diseases over time.(5)

Alcohol Consumption and Cancer Mortality

Heavy drinking can increase one’s risk of developing certain types of cancer. In fact, alcohol consumption ends in anywhere between 18,200 and 21,300 cancer deaths, or 3.2 to 3.7 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States.(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) Almost 30 percent of all voice box (laryngeal) cancers are tied to alcohol. And about 12 percent of new breast cancer diagnoses in women related to drinking alcohol.

Alcohol Consumption and Liver Disease Mortality

Alcohol is one of the leading causes of liver disease. And liver disease is a leading cause of death in the United States. 

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.

Who is at Risk of Alcohol-Related Problems?

Anyone can develop alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is defined as an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol intake, despite the consequences, according to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.(16)

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 at an increased risk of AUD later down the line. Those who start drinking before the age of 15 are actually five times as likely to report having AUD as those who waited until the legal drinking age of 21 years old. Women in this group are at a higher risk than men.

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 parent’s drinking habits can influence their children’s patterns.

Mental health also plays a role. People who struggle with depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and other mental illnesses are vulnerable to AUD. 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 (and doing so is dangerous). 

How to Reduce Your Risk of Harm from Alcohol 

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: How to Stop the Cycle of Alcohol Abuse

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 your options.

Why Does Alcohol Make You Drunk?

What is Alcohol?

Alcohol comes in a variety of different forms. The type of alcohol related to spirits or drinking is made from ethanol or ethyl alcohol. Ethanol is the fermentation of sugar, yeast, and starch and contains fruit, grains, sugar, and other ingredients. 

Ethyl alcohol is one of four different types of alcohol but is the only one that’s safe to consume if done so in small or moderate doses.

Despite it being safe to consume responsibly, it is still an intoxicating agent. Many people consume it for its intoxicating features, as well as for its taste.

why does alcohol make you drunk

Despite it being safe to consume responsibly, it is still an intoxicating agent. Many people consume it for its intoxicating features, as well as for its taste. 

When used in moderation, drinking alcohol is enjoyable and relatively harmless. However, if over-consumed, alcohol can trigger dependence and a variety of different diseases and social and economic problems.

Binge drinking and frequent drunkenness are both signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

What Ingredient in Alcohol Makes You Drunk?

Drunkenness is one of the side effects of consuming too much alcohol. The ethanol content in alcohol causes it.

Ethanol molecules are a byproduct of plant fermentation, which occurs when yeast ferments the sugar in the plant material used to create the beverage.

For example:

How Alcohol Travels Through Your Body

Initially, alcohol has a stimulating effect, but it is a depressant. The effects of alcohol begin the moment you start drinking. The more you drink, the more intense feelings you’ll experience.

Alcohol travels through your body along the following path:

Mouth

A small amount of alcohol enters your bloodstream as soon as it comes in contact with your tongue and other soft tissue in your mouth.

Small Intestine and Stomach

About a fifth of the alcohol you consume enters your bloodstream through the stomach. The remaining amount reaches your bloodstream through the small intestine. This is the reason why the food you eat before and while drinking affects drunkenness. 

Food helps with the absorption of alcohol in the stomach. It also affects the amount of time it takes for alcohol to reach your bloodstream, which is why drinking on an empty stomach is riskier than drinking with or after a meal.

Bloodstream

Once alcohol is in the bloodstream, it’s moved through the body quickly. This causes a variety of side effects, including flushed skin, a decrease in body temperature, and a drop in blood pressure.

Brain and Nervous System

Alcohol reaches your brain within about 5 to 10 minutes. Most people feel happy, more confident, and more social at this point. Their inhibitions drop. This is all caused by the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain. 

As you consume more, alcohol interferes with your brain’s communication channels and depresses the central nervous system (CNS). At this stage, people experience loss of coordination, blurred vision, dizziness, and slowed speech.

Kidneys

The brain produces the antidiuretic hormone (ADH), which tells your kidneys how much water to conserve. When you drink alcohol, ADH production is limited. This causes the kidneys to release more water, which is why you need to use the bathroom so often when consuming alcohol. Not consuming enough non-alcohol fluid when drinking and urinating more often leads to dehydration.

Lungs

Many people are surprised to learn their lungs are affected when they drink alcohol. About 2 to 5 percent of the alcohol you drink is expelled via breath, urine, or sweat. This is why people smell like alcohol after a night of drinking and it’s why breathalyzers can measure your level of drunkenness.

Liver

The liver is responsible for oxidizing most of the alcohol you drink. It converts it to water and carbon monoxide. The liver is limited in how much it’s able to oxidize, which is why drinking fast raises your blood alcohol content and puts you at risk for alcohol poisoning. If you drink more than your liver can oxidize, you’re at risk.

Why Does Alcohol Make You Drunk?

Ethanol passes throughout your body via the digestive system and the bloodstream and passes through cell membranes.

In your brain, it depresses the central nervous system and triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin. It binds to glutamate, which is a neurotransmitter and prevents it from acting. This makes the brain slower to respond. Ethanol also binds to and activates gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), which makes you feel calm and sleeping.

In addition to the effects alcohol has on everyone’s body, your drunkenness is also affected by age, gender, and weight. 

How Does Alcohol Affect The Body?

Alcohol affects your body in a variety of ways, especially when you consume a lot of it. For example:

Physical Effects of Alcohol

In small doses, alcohol is mildly sedating and might affect your coordination. As you drink more, your speech slurs and you have trouble walking. Your body is slower to respond. Many people vomit, get dizzy, or experience blurred vision.

Mental Effects of Alcohol 

In addition to the physical effects of alcohol that other people can see, there are also mental effects of alcohol. People’s personalities change when they drink. Some get happy and confident, while others become aggressive or impulsive. Their emotions intensify and they might be extra affectionate or begin crying.

Despite the stimulating effects of alcohol, it is considered a depressant. This is because it slows the central nervous system (CNS). This is the area of the brain and spinal cord responsible for controlling motor function, regulating emotions, and reasoning.

Alcohol also affects the limbic system, which is the “emotional center” of the brain. It controls our behavior and emotions and helps with forming long-term memories. Alcohol is unlikely to affect your limbic system unless you’ve consumed a significant amount.

How Alcohol Changes Your Behavior

Anyone who has been drunk knows that alcohol affects their behavior. Many people say or do things they are unlikely to say or do without a lot of alcohol in their system.

Alcohol affects how you react to your surroundings. It makes you impulsive and reduces your inhibitions. This is why there’s so much risk associated with drinking too much. Consuming alcohol also reduces short-sightedness, which means you’re less likely to notice cues and information about risks around you. 

What Actually Happens to Your Brain When You Get Drunk?

Chemical changes occur in the brain when you’re drunk. In addition to the effect alcohol has on serotonin and dopamine, it also increases norepinephrine. This is a neurotransmitter that causes arousal. 

Researchers believe this increase is linked to why drunk people are less inhibited. A drunk brain is more likely to seek pleasure without any consideration of negative consequences. 

Alcohol consumption triggers decreased activity in certain regions of the brain, including the prefrontal cortex and the temporal cortex. These regions are responsible for decision-making, rationalizing, prevention of aggressive behavior, and forming new memories. 

There is also a decrease in energy consumption in the cerebellum when someone drinks alcohol. This is the area of the brain that coordinates motor activity. This is why it’s difficult for drunk people to walk in a straight line or drive. 

Do Different Alcoholic Drinks Cause Different Drunk Feelings?

Ethanol is the cause of drunkenness, no matter the alcoholic beverage. Certain drinks might make you drunker due to a higher alcohol content.

However, any perceived difference in drunkenness is due to preconceived notions about different types of alcohol. It’s always ethanol, no matter whether you’re drinking beer, wine, or hard liquor.

If you feel different when you drink an ethanol-equivalent amount of wine and tequila, and you react differently, it’s your stereotypes about the alcohol. 

You might perceive wine as relaxing and tequila as energizing and great for a party, but the chemical effect in your brain is the same regardless of whether you drink wine or tequila.

How Do Hangovers Occur? 

Hangovers are caused by the secondary effects of alcohol. For example, alcohol is dehydrating, which causes hangover symptoms such as headaches and fatigue. After drinking a moderate to high amount of alcohol, you’ll feel a variety of unpleasant symptoms the next day.

Other hangover symptoms include:

Hangover symptoms vary from person to person, regardless of the amount of alcohol consumed. Hangovers also tend to increase in severity as people age. Time is the only way to “cure” a hangover, but the following help to ease the symptoms:

Treatment for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

If alcohol use is interfering with your life or you prioritize alcohol over other things in your life, treatment can help.

Alcohol misuse and addiction treatment is available in a variety of forms, including: