Alcohol shelf in a store
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Binge Drinking and Alcohol Deaths on the Rise – Helping a Loved One Who Drinks to Excess

Since the end of Prohibition, alcohol and its consumption has been legal, easily accessible, even encouraged in some ways. For some reason, we look at alcohol in an entirely different light than we do other drugs. Yet arguments could be made that alcohol causes our nation even more harm than drugs do. It certainly causes more loss of life. New research indicates that the number of Americans dying from alcohol each year has doubled since 1999.

In a nation where drinking is so accepted and so “normal,” how do the family members of heavy drinkers help their loved ones get clean? How do families do this when there is little societal pressure to stop drinking? When drinking to excess is legal and even socially accepted?

Binge Drinking and Alcohol Deaths – Getting the Facts

In 1999, about 36,000 people died in the U.S. from alcohol-related causes. In 2017, 73,000 people died from alcohol-related causes In less than two decades, nearly one million people lost their lives from alcohol misuse.

And the problem is only getting worse.

“We sort of forget about alcohol because it's been around for so long, but it has its fingerprints all over the increase in the deaths involved in deaths of despair. ”

Dr. Aaron White, a researcher and neuroscientist, commented on new data presented in the journal, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. “Those deaths are associated with despair—loss of hope, loss of employment and opportunities for employment, increase in stress—leading to substance abuse and alcohol abuse. We sort of forget about alcohol because it's been around for so long, but it has its fingerprints all over the increase in the deaths involved in deaths of despair. Alcohol causes a considerable amount of harm in our society.”

Other public health institutions report even more concerning findings on alcohol-related deaths. For example, the NIAAA suggests that an estimated 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes each year. That institution labels alcohol as being the third-leading cause of preventable death in the United States. And if their estimations are correct, almost 250 people die from alcohol-related causes every day.

If every day a plane carrying 250 passengers crashed, killing everyone on board, our nation would be in a frenzy, and planes everywhere would be grounded. Why are we not treating the alcohol epidemic in the same way?

Millions of Americans Drink to Excess

Woman is drinking

The problem is, even though almost 250 Americans die from alcohol every day, millions of Americans drink to excess. This problem won’t be overcome by something as simple as grounding planes and fixing them. Because millions of Americans drink to excess, this issue will require a societal, moral shift in America. We have to stop drinking so much.

According to studies, about 14.4 million adults in the U.S. struggle with an addiction to alcohol. Furthermore, about half a million young people under the age of 18 struggle with alcohol misuse.

About 26 percent of adults admit to binge drinking. Keep in mind that whether an individual binge drinks or drinks daily, both habits are addictive and almost always require treatment to overcome.

We will not get to a point where fewer people die from alcohol-related causes until we can get people the help they need for their alcohol habits.

Impaired Driving – One Reason Why Even Occasional Excessive Drinking is Unacceptable

It’s easy enough to become “reasonable” about alcohol consumption. The substance is legal, the FDA clears it, and hey, it helps people relax, right? (Or so they say.) But let’s take a look at just one particular type of situation where we can see the harm in alcohol consumption.

Anyone over the age of 21 in the United States can drink alcohol. And they can do so without breaking a single law. However, the moment when someone does that and then gets behind the wheel of a car, now they are breaking the law. And we can easily see why.

According to the CDC, about 29 people die every day from drunk driving accidents. That’s over 10,000 deaths every year. And it means someone dies from a drunk driving accident every 50 minutes. That is just one type of harm from excessive alcohol consumption, drunk driving is entirely preventable.

How Do You Help Someone Who Drinks Too Much?

Stoppink man from drinking

The point we have to get across is the need to reduce alcohol consumption across all levels of drinking. Dr. J.C. Garbutt of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies was not a part of the studies mentioned in this article, but his commentary on how we need to change how we view alcohol is worth mentioning here. “Historically, the message about alcohol consumption has been very confusing - ‘Drinking red wine is good for you; a little alcohol a day will make you live longer.’ But over the past ten years, we have become aware that for health, it is probably better to drink as little as one can. People need to know that if they cut down or even stop drinking, it is likely that they will feel better.”

Time and time again, we see examples of the harms and dangers brought on by alcohol consumption. If you know someone who drinks too much, they have likely tried to stop on their own and haven’t been able to do so.

The truth is, most people who drink too much do want to cut back on their consumption. Lots of people who are dependent on alcohol want to put the bottle down and never pick it back up again. If you have a son or daughter, or a spouse, sibling, or grandchild who cannot stop drinking on their own, make sure they get the help of a residential drug treatment center as soon as possible. Don’t let your loved one become a statistic.


Reviewed by Claire Pinelli, ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP



After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.