Alcohol-Related Deaths Spiked During the Pandemic, a Study Shows The New York Times

While these supply conditions may be related to the increases in alcohol consumption that have occurred since the mid-1990s, they cannot explain why peak U.S. per capita alcohol consumption occurred during the mid-1970s to mid-1980s and was followed by a decline throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s (Haughwout and Slater, 2018). Statistics show men between the ages of 35 and 64 are typically the ones who die from it. Generally, once your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.40 percent or over, it’s dangerous territory. The crisis has actually been brewing for years, as drinking among adults has been increasing even as drinking among adolescents has fallen off, said Katherine Keyes, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University, who was not involved in the study. Mental health struggles were also becoming more prevalent before the pandemic, making people more susceptible to substance abuse.

Alcohol Poisoning Deaths

The ability to relate trends in adult mental illness to other important health and functional characteristics, such as substance use, disability, employment status, and mental illness–related mortality, would be of great value. Unfortunately, ongoing population surveys and other nationwide surveillance using comprehensive indicators of adult mental illness are scant. The NSDUH collects data annually on substance misuse, SMI, psychological distress, and suicidal ideation. However, it does not include other commonly diagnosed mental illnesses (bipolar disorder, phobias, personality disorders, eating and gambling disorders, schizophrenia and other psychoses).

Things You Can Do to Prevent Alcohol-Related Deaths

As alluded to earlier, the crisis among Blacks was treated primarily as a criminal justice problem, while the crisis among Whites has been treated primarily (though not exclusively) as a public health crisis—a contrast often cited as an example of systemic racism (see Chapter 11). These distinctions aside, both crises may have been fueled by despair brought on by changing economic, social, and family conditions that disproportionately impacted individuals without a college degree (Silva, 2019; Wilson, 1987). An important consideration in understanding the onset and development of mental illnesses is their early onset relative to many chronic conditions of older ages. According to the American Psychiatric Association, 50 percent of mental illnesses begin by age 14 and three-quarters by age 24 (American Psychiatric Association, 2018).

Alcohol Poisoning Deaths

Relative to drug poisoning, the extended period of consumption before the onset of many diseases caused by alcohol provides greater opportunity for intervention before alcohol-induced mortality occurs, as well as greater opportunity for deaths from other causes. In contrast, drug poisoning mortality may be more likely to track contemporaneous trends in the supply of particularly lethal drugs. For these reasons, although the overall trends in mortality from these causes of death differ, it is possible that these trends are the result of common underlying vulnerabilities to drug and alcohol use within certain population groups and geographic areas. In some ways, the drug overdose crisis can be considered a national crisis, as drug poisoning mortality rates increased in every U.S. state over the study period (Figure 7-3).

Vital Signs: Alcohol Poisoning Deaths — United States, 2010–2012

As your stomach digests and absorbs alcohol, the alcohol enters your bloodstream, and your alcohol blood level begins to rise. But when blood alcohol levels are high, your overwhelmed liver can’t remove the toxins quickly enough. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis is another, long-term adverse consequence of alcohol abuse, and those deaths have increased during the pandemic as well, from over 44,000 deaths in 2019 to over 56,000 deaths in 2021 – an increase of more than 26 percent. Chronic liver disease and cirrhosis became the 9th leading cause of death of all Americans in 2021, up from 11th prior to the pandemic. While this study did not point to the reasons behind this increase, co-author and assistant professor of population health at Hofstra University Ibraheem Karaye offered a few potential theories to The New York Times. Karaye said that alcohol consumption is likely increasing among women and that alcohol affects women’s bodies differently.

Alcohol Poisoning Deaths

It’s important to remember that a person with alcohol poisoning may not have all the signs and symptoms. It’s defined as when a man has five drinks or more within two hours or when a woman has four or more drinks within two hours. Available data for 2021 indicates that alcohol-related deaths remained elevated, Dr. White said, but he added that it was hard to say whether that indicated a continuation of the trend because alcohol consumption and deaths generally how does alcoholism kill you drop in February after the holidays and then trend back up. The alcohol-related deaths went up for everybody — men, women, as well as every ethnic and racial group. Deaths among men and women increased at about the same rate, but the absolute number of deaths among men was much higher. If drinking alcohol is taking a toll on your mental health, let your doctor know or talk to a licensed mental health specialist such as a counselor or therapist.


More comprehensive identification of contributing causes of death on death certificates is also important (see Chapter 5 and Recommendation 5-1). The completeness of the MCD indicators on death certificates varies by certifier, and there are important differences in this regard by decedent demographic characteristics and other nonmedical factors (Wall et al., 2005). More systematic completion of the MCD section on death certificates would facilitate research on comorbid physical and mental health conditions and on the interrelationships among mental illnesses, SUDs, and suicides.

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