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Almost 31,000 US Deaths Associated with Alcohol Use in 2014

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Americans are drinking themselves to death at a record-breaking rate, according a December 18 report from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


In the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Rose A. Rudd et al reported that “30,700 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes, including alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis.” This figure excludes “deaths from drunk driving, other accidents, and homicides committed under the influence of alcohol.” Were those deaths to be “included, the annual toll of deaths directly or indirectly caused by alcohol would be closer to 90,000” says the report.

The Washington Post reported that the rate of 9.6 deaths per 100,000 people is an increase of 37% since 2002. In fact, more people died from alcohol in 2014 than from overdoses of prescription painkillers and heroin combined, the Post added.

TIME wrote that “Excessive alcohol use is a leading cause of preventable death, according to the CDC, accounting for about 88,000 deaths each year from 2006 to 2010”.

Philip J. Cook (Duke University) told the Washington Post that per-capita consumption of alcohol has been increasing since the late 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 said.

The proportions of American adults who drink at least monthly increased by a small but significant amount between 2002 and 2014, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Cook said that when you adjust the alcohol fatality rates for age, the increase narrows, because older Americans are at more risk for alcohol-induced diseases such as cirrhosis, and the American population has gotten older over the past several decades.

Once you adjust for age, the increase in alcohol-deaths might be accounted for by the growth in per capita consumption, said Cook.

Rudd et al found that the US is also experiencing an epidemic of overdoses and deaths from drugs besides alcohol. Since 2000, the rate of deaths from drug overdoses has increased 137%, including a 200% increase in the rate of overdose deaths involving opioids (opioid pain relievers and heroin). Heroin overdoses have more than tripled in the past 4 years.

The rate of drug overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids nearly doubled between 2013 and 2014. This category includes prescription synthetic opioids (e.g., fentanyl and tramadol) and non-pharmaceutical fentanyl manufactured in illegal laboratories (illicit fentanyl).

In 2014, the 5 states with the highest rates of drug overdose deaths were West Virginia (35.5 deaths per 100,000), New Mexico (27.3), New Hampshire (26.2), Kentucky (24.7), and Ohio (24.6).

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Kristine Novak

Kristine Novak

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About The Author:

Dr. Kristine Novak

Dr. Kristine Novak

Dr. Kristine Novak is a science writer and editor based in San Francisco. She has extensive experience covering gastroenterology, hepatology, immunology, oncology, clinical, and biotechnology research discoveries.

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