The Centers for Disease Control once cataloged 54 ways that alcohol can kill you. The truth is, that while alcohol is legal and enjoyed by millions of people around the world. for the people who develop alcohol dependency, it can easily become a lethal substance.
Alcoholism not only takes lives, it robs children of parents, and spouses of their loved ones. It costs our economy millions of dollars a year in lost productivity, hospital expenses and criminal justice costs.
Alcohol dependency causes over 89,000 deaths a year in this country alone. Here are just five of the multitude of ways that excessive drinking can lead to serious health risks and eventual death.
1. Drinking and Driving
Every day, almost 29 people in our country die in alcohol-related vehicle crashes. In other words, one person dies every 50 minutes. Drunk-driving crashes cause more than 10,000 deaths and cost our country over $44 billion per year.
Alcohol reduces brain function by impairing your rational thinking. It also hinders your ability to see clearly and move your muscles in a coordinated way. When you lose these faculties, you lose the ability to operate a car effectively and you become a danger to yourself and others.
As alcohol levels rise in a person’s system, it impacts the central nervous system. Alcohol is absorbed through the walls of the stomach. It then passes into the bloodstream where it accumulates until it is metabolized by the liver. Only a small amount of alcohol in the blood can contribute to a car crash.
If you get behind the wheel after drinking alcohol, you endanger not only yourself but countless others on the road. In 2013 according to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, a total of 1,149 children aged 14 or younger were killed in motor vehicle traffic crashes. Of those fatalities, 200 (17%) occurred in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes.
2. Cirrhosis of the Liver
About 1 in 10 heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis of the liver. It usually develops after ten or so years of alcohol dependency.
Cirrhosis occurs when normal liver tissue is replaced by scar tissue over time and affects the normal structure and regrowth of liver cells. The liver cells become damaged and die as this scar tissue gradually develops.
The scar tissue affects affect the blood flow to the liver, causing pressure in the blood vessels. Gradually, the liver gradually loses its ability to function at all.
If you are diagnosed with cirrhosis, your doctor will tell you to stop drinking immediately to arrest the progress of the disease. In severe cases where the scarring is so extensive that the liver begins to fail, a liver transplant may be the only option.
Often patients diagnosed with severe alcohol dependency are denied liver transplants. Death from a failing liver can take a long time and be excruciatingly painful.
3. Domestic Violence
For people with alcohol dependency, the risks of excessive drinking are not just medical. Many people who are alcoholic engage in increasingly risky or aggressive behaviors as their disease progresses, making them more susceptible to injury and death at the hands of others or even themselves.
Studies of domestic violence frequently cite high rates of alcohol intake. Alcoholism and child abuse, including incest, seem also to be connected.
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, two-thirds of victims of spousal violence report that the perpetrator had been drinking.
in some cases of domestic violence, both parties may suffer from drug or alcohol dependency. When a victim is drunk, they may become unable to resist their attacker, unable to accurately assess the risk of the situation (and escape if possible), and they may even make matters worse by engaging with the perpetrator.
They may also be afraid to report the attack or feel that they somehow caused it or deserved it.
A New Mexico study examined 134 homicides of women from 1990 to 1993 where a male partner was the murderer: one-third of all the victims were legally drunk at the time of their death, and nearly 25 percent had evidence of drugs in their bodies.
Drinking excessively raises your chance of both committing and becoming the victim of domestic violence.
4. Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol dependency can cause grave illnesses over time. On the other hand, fatal alcohol poisoning can happen the first time one gets excessively drunk.
When one consumes a large amount of alcohol quickly (binge drinking), the dosage can become toxic and potentially fatal. The blood alcohol level is so high that it acts like a poison to the system.
Someone experiencing alcohol poisoning can seem confused, unresponsive, disoriented, have shallow breathing, and can even pass out or go into a coma.This condition is life-threatening and requires urgent medical treatment.
An average of six people per day die from alcohol poisoning.
5. Deadly Combinations with Drugs
Alcohol dependency makes people twenty times more likely to ingest prescription drugs “recreationally”. This increases the risk of poisoning and overdose. Mixing booze with prescriptions drugs like Xanax and Ambien can compromise the central nervous system. The combination can also slow response time and induce extreme nausea, coma, and death.
In the last thirty years, the number of fatalities from mixing alcohol and drugs have increased by more than 3,000 percent.
Alcohol dependency can also lead to a willingness to experiment with street drugs like heroin and cocaine. Mixing drinking and drugs lead to an increased strain on the heart and other organs, respiratory problems, hallucinations, intestinal distress, and comas.
The risk of overdose when alcohol is combined with high doses of drugs becomes extremely high. Alcohol, when used with such “party” drugs as ecstasy or GHB, can lead to severe dehydration and damage to the heart and central nervous system.
Alcohol Dependency is a Killer
Excessive and consistent alcohol consumption impairs judgment and cognition while lowering inhibitions on risk-taking and acting out aggressively. If your drinking is accumulating and accelerating over time, resulting in chaos and danger to you and others, there is help available.
There are so many reasons to stay sober. Staying alive is at the top of the list.
For more information on alcoholism and addiction, and for resources to get help, check out our blog.