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Mental Health

More Americans Are Drinking Themselves to Death — Are You?

More Americans Are Drinking Themselves to Death — Are You?


New stats show alcohol-related deaths are on the rise, and people with HIV may be at greater risk.

Nearly 30,700 Americans died last year because of alcohol — and those deaths had nothing to do with drunk driving, homicides, or alcohol-related accidents, according to new statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Washington Post reports that including those deaths would raise the total of all deaths related to alcohol to 90,000 last year. 

And those numbers are on the rise: 2014 saw the first increase in 35 years to the number of deaths caused by alcohol poisoning or cirrhosis. Those 2014 numbers also represent a 37 percent increase over 2002 deaths. In addition to the increase in alcohol deaths, the CDC also reported an increase in other deaths related to substance abuse, particularly painkiller and heroin abuse

The number of people who use alcohol increased slightly between 2002 and 2014, particularly among women, the Washington Post reports. Alcohol-related problems are more typically associated with established heavy drinkers and those who are older and more suseptible to other health issues. The majority of people who drink consume less than problem drinkers and the health effects are less pronounced. Washington Post also notes that the line between regular consumption to get a buzz and overdosing on alcohol is a lot thinner than with other controlled substances. 

Alcohol is the most abused substance in the United States, and the National Institutes of Health reports that drinking is a greater problem among those with HIV versus the general population, putting HIV-positive people at greater risk for alcohol-related deaths. According to the NIH, 8 percent of people with HIV are classified as heavy drinkers versus 4.5 percent in the general population.

A heavy drinker is defined as a person who consumed five or more drinks at a single occasion on each of five or more days within the past 30 days. The same study also reported that 67 percent of heavy drinkers had been told by a health care provider that they were drinking too much. 

While a 2013 study suggested that alcohol has no impact on HIV treatments overall, it did find that heavy drinkers were much more likely to interupt their antiretroviral therapy.  Treatment interuption has a demonstrated, potentially long-term impact on people living with HIV, so it pays to keep your drinking in check.


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