By Dani Anguiano
Several health care professionals have said that a recently released CDC report, which revealed that on average, six people die from alcohol poisoning each day in the United States, while jarring – doesn’t show the full societal cost of excessive drinking.
According to the CDC report released earlier this year, researchers found that the majority of people dying are middle-aged, white males who aren’t alcoholics.
Experts were quick to point out that the report doesn’t include deaths in which alcohol poisoning is a secondary factor, such as strokes or car collisions brought on by consumption of alcohol.
“One thing the report didn’t necessarily speak to were alcohol related injuries,” said Sarah Suzuki, a licensed clinical social worker and substance abuse counselor at Chicago Compass Counseling.
Substance abuse counselor Joslyn Jelinek also said there are more deaths that occur as a result of alcohol than the data examined in this study suggests.
“It is not just the biological that is responsible for mortality.” Jelinek said. “Increased alcohol use is always associated with risk of violence to self or others as well as car crashes.”
The author of the study warned that there are other deaths occurring as a result of excessive drinking, but those deaths were not taken into account.
“We looked at deaths where alcohol poisoning was the primary cause of death,” said Dr. Robert Brewer, director of the CDC alcohol program and coauthor of the study. “But there aren’t just alcohol poisoning deaths, there’s also motor vehicle deaths and cancers,” Brewer added.
Dr. Brewer emphasized that there is a relationship between binge drinking and deaths caused by alcohol poisoning.
Illinois has one of the highest numbers of binge drinkers in the country with 22 percent of adults who self-report having four or more or five or more alcoholic beverages at least once in the last month, according to America’s Health Rankings.
Despite the high number of binge drinkers, Illinois has a lower rate of the alcohol poisoning deaths than most other states .
According to Dr. Brewer, this may be because so many Illinoisans live in the Chicago metro area.
“We tended to see higher rates of alcohol poisoning deaths in New England and states more in the West. Living in a more geographically remote area and having less access to hospitals is a bigger risk factor,” Brewer said.
Although there are fewer alcohol poisoning deaths in Illinois, Suzuki, who specializes in Moderation Management at Chicago Compass Counseling, said she thinks alcohol related injuries, and motor vehicle incidents could be higher in Illinois than in other states.
“Even though it looks like we are getting away with something because there are more binge drinkers and less alcohol poisoning events, it always comes back around in some way for us,” Suzuki said.
Health care professionals said they hope that this report will raise awareness among the general public and save lives.
“Our feeling is that deaths due to alcohol poisoning can be prevented and this is a call to action,” Brewer said.