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CDC MMWR: Six People Die Each Day in the US From Alcohol Poisoning

Name your poison

On Friday, the CDC published a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) with study findings about alcohol poisoning deaths in the United States, 2010-2012. Accidental poisoning by exposure to alcohol is caused by high-intensity alcohol intake during a binge. The CDC defines a binge as “four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on an occasion.” On average, six people in the US die each day from alcohol poisoning.

The key findings from the report include:

  • There are more than 2,200 alcohol poisoning deaths in the U.S. each year – an average of 6 alcohol poisoning deaths every day.
  • Three in four alcohol poisoning deaths involve adults ages 35-64, and most deaths occur among men.
  • While the majority of deaths are among non-Hispanic whites, American Indians/Alaska Natives have the most alcohol poisoning deaths per million people.
  • Deaths rates from alcohol poisoning vary widely across states, from 5.3 alcohol poisoning deaths per million residents in Alabama to 46.5 deaths per million residents in Alaska.
  • 76 percent of the deaths are men.
  • Most people who die of alcohol poisoning are white and non-Hispanic (68%)

The study limitations are noted as follows:

The findings in this analysis are subject to at least three limitations. First, alcohol-attributable deaths, including alcohol poisoning, are underreported. Second, this study was restricted to deaths in which alcohol poisoning was the underlying cause of death, and did not include deaths in which alcohol poisoning was a contributing cause of death. A previous study found that there were three times as many deaths in which alcohol poisoning was a contributing, rather than underlying cause of death. Finally, mortality data might underestimate the actual number of deaths for American Indians/Alaska Natives  and certain other racial/ethnic populations (e.g., Hispanics) because of misclassification of race/ethnicity of the decedents on death certificates.

In other studies, the CDC has addressed deaths caused by alcohol intoxication and driving. Every day, almost 30 people in the United States die in motor vehicle crashes that involve an alcohol-impaired driver. This amounts to one death every 48 minutes. The annual cost of alcohol-related crashes totals more than $51 billion. Alcohol-attributable deaths also “result in substantial losses in workplace productivity and were responsible for >70% of the $223.5 billion in economic costs attributed to excessive drinking in the United States in 2006 .”

[footnotes omitted]

Creative Commons photo courtesy of Pete Georgiev on flickr.


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