Alcohol poisoning kills an average of six people each day in the United States, with most of the deaths among middle-aged white men, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in a new report released Tuesday. Binge drinking played a bigger role than alcoholism in most of the deaths, the report said.
Three in four alcohol poisoning deaths — which total over 2,200 per year — involve adult, non-Hispanic white males between the ages of 35 and 64, according to the report. However, it noted that “American Indians/Alaska Natives” had the most deaths per million people (49.1 per 1 million).
Just 5 percent of alcohol poisoning deaths occurred among 15- to 24-year-olds, and 13 percent took place among 25 - to 34-year-olds, the CDC said.
“This study shows that alcohol poisoning deaths are not just a problem among young people,” said Robert Brewer, a co-author of the report, which followed CDC scientists’ analysis of alcohol poisoning deaths among people in the U.S. 15 years old and older using data tabulated between 2010 and 2012.
The Mayo Clinic defines alcohol poisoning as the “consequence of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time,” which can affect “breathing, heart rate, body temperature and gag reflex and potentially lead to coma and death.”
The CDC report said that over 38 million adults in the U.S. admit to binge drinking — defined as consuming five or more drinks for men or four or more drinks for women on a particular occasion — an average of four times per month, drinking an average of eight drinks during each of those occurrences.
While the report noted that alcohol dependence or alcoholism was a contributing factor in 30 percent of fatal cases, in the overwhelming majority, it was not.
“This result is consistent with the results of a recent study that found that nine in 10 adults who drink excessively were not alcohol dependent, including more than two thirds of those who reported binge drinking ≥10 times [10 or more times] per month,” the CDC said in the report, citing another one of its studies published in November 2014.
The report also showed stark contrasts in alcohol poisoning death rates in different parts of the country. Alaska had 46.5 such deaths per million residents, representing the high end of the spectrum, with New Mexico (32.7 deaths), Rhode Island (22.8), Arizona (18.7) and Wyoming (17.7) rounding out the five states with the highest death rates. The state with the highest total number of alcohol poisoning deaths was California, which averaged 299 a year between 2010 and 2012.
On the other end, the report said Alabama had 5.3 deaths per million residents, with Texas (5.4), Illinois (5.6), Virginia (5.9) and Wisconsin (6.0) making up the states with the lowest death rates per million residents.
"Alcohol poisoning deaths are a heartbreaking reminder of the dangers of excessive alcohol use, which is a leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.," CDC Principal Deputy Director Ileana Arias said in a statement issued Tuesday. "We need to implement effective programs and policies to prevent binge drinking and the many health and social harms that are related to it, including deaths from alcohol poisoning."