Alcohol abuse remains a deadly problem in the U.S.

March 11, 2014

It is important for people to understand that alcohol abuse is a serious problem in the U.S., which is why there are many individuals going into alcohol rehab as well as drug rehab. Some individuals may be under the impression that because alcohol is legal, it is not dangerous, but that is simply not the case. For example, Reuters recently reported on a study conducted by researchers from the Pan American Health Organization, which found that liver disease and brain disorders that come as a result of alcohol abuse are majorly associated with premature death among people living in North, South and Central America.

The scientists found that men and middle-aged individuals in particular seem to be at risk of alcohol-related death. The researchers examined 16 North, Central, and South American countries and found that alcohol was primarily associated with 79,456 deaths a year combined. They looked at numbers from 2007 to 2009. These numbers do not include deaths from car accidents or other circumstances where alcohol may have played a role but was not the sole cause of death.

Alcohol abuse can lead to death

The researchers explained that 63 percent of these deaths were the result of liver disease and 32 percent were associated with neurological and psychiatric conditions. Alcohol-related heart problems, fetal alcohol syndrome and alcohol poisoning were also listed as causes of death. Maristela Monteiro, M.D. regional adviser on alcohol and substance abuse at PAHO, explained to Reuters that these deaths may merely be the “tip of the iceberg,” since there are likely more deaths attributed to alcohol use each year that the researchers were not able to identify.

Monteiro speculated that increasing the cost of alcohol and taxing it higher may lower the number of alcohol-related deaths each year.

David Jernigan, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told the news source that the U.S. – which was part of the study – has not been working hard enough to reduce these deaths.

“The single most efficient thing you can do is to raise taxes,” Jernigan told Reuters Health. “Many states haven’t raised it in decades. That means the price doesn’t go up with inflation, and alcohol gets cheaper every year.”

However, he stressed that this study could be positive step toward change.

“On one hand, you could say, ‘this is a huge problem, and not enough is being done.’ On the other, you could say, ‘we’re getting better at documenting it and showing that, until we take meaningful action, it’s not going to go away,'” Jernigan told the news source.

Understanding alcohol poisoning

Alcohol poisoning was one of the causes of death examined in the study, and it is something that people may need to know more about. According to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol poisoning can occur when people consume large amounts of alcoholic beverages in a short amount of time, or when individuals accidentally or purposefully drink cleaning or other household products with alcohol in them.

People need to understand that they can consume a fatal amount of alcohol without passing out. Some may be under the impression that they would vomit or go to sleep before being able to drink enough to kill themselves, but that is not the case. The Mayo Clinic explained that even after people have passed out or have stopped drinking, alcohol can continue to be released into their bloodstream and could potentially kill them.

Individuals who have a problem with binge drinking should consider looking into detox centers to avoid accidentally succumbing to alcohol poisoning.

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