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Tuesday, January 6, 2015

CDC: Despite binge warnings, six die a day from alcohol overdose


An overdose of the non-prescription central nervous system depressant drug, alcohol, claims 2,200 lives a year in this Jan. 6 article.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Jan. 6 Vital Signs puts it starkly: 2,200 die every year from drinking too much, too fast. Very high levels of alcohol – a central nervous system depressant drug – shut down the brain's control of critical body functions, leading to death for an average of six people every day. These are poisoning deaths, not alcoholism deaths or drinking and driving fatalities or other hazards of alcohol use.

Despite the risks, more than 38 million U.S. adults report binge drinking an average of four times per month and consume an average of eight drinks per binge. Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on an occasion. The more you drink, the more you risk dying from it.

Many of the health risks of moderate to heavy use are apparent in the new Alcohology app for Android devices (see related article), but the CDC is using its voice to warn of immediate and often fatal consequences of alcohol use across the board. “Alcohol poisoning deaths affect people of all ages,” notes the CDC, “But they are most common among middle-aged adults and men.”

When the sedative alcohol is consumed, it works on the brain from the outside inward. This means higher functions (judgment, fine motor skills) are depressed first. Then gross motor control (coordination) and finally control of vital systems like heartbeat, breathing and body temperature control. Usually, a person will pass out before the body reaches this point under a more moderate pace of drinking that keeps pace with or slightly exceeds the body's capacity to rid itself of the drug. In binge drinking, the alcohol concentration increases so rapidly that the vital systems are depressed – or shut down.

CDC scientists analyzed deaths from alcohol poisoning among people aged 15 years and older, 2010-2012. Among key findings in the CDC report:
  • 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.
“While this study reveals that alcohol poisoning deaths are a bigger problem than previously thought, it is still likely to be an underestimate,” admits the CDC. The organization calls on states and communities to take steps to reduce alcohol poisoning deaths by preventing binge drinking, including:
  • Supporting proven programs and policies to decrease binge drinking. States with stronger alcohol policies have less binge drinking.
  • Partnering with police, community groups, health departments, and doctors, nurses, and other health care providers to reduce binge drinking and related harms.
  • Monitoring the role of alcohol in injuries and deaths.
Visit alcohologist.com for a replay of the Dr. Alan Simberg's show, Life Changing Insights, featuring Scott Stevens.  Dr. Simberg led a discussion on the health risks and myths of health benefits of drinking.  Lucy Pireel's "All That's Written" included a feature on Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud called "When alcohol doesn't work for you anymore."  Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud also can be found on www.alcohologist.com, plus an interview with Christoph Fisher Books.  Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international author from the UK, among his works is the Alzheimer's book "Time to Let Go."