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Alcohol-related deaths dramatically rise in U.S.

The Washington Post

Alcohol is killing Americans at a rate not seen in at least 35 years, according to new federal data. Last year, more than 30,700 Americans died of alcohol-induced causes, including alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis, which is primarily caused by alcohol use.

In 2014, there were 9.6 deaths from these alcohol-induced causes per 100,000 people, an increase of 37 percent since 2002.

This tally excludes deaths from drunken driving, other accidents, and homicides committed under the influence of alcohol. If those numbers were included, the annual toll of deaths directly or indirectly caused by alcohol would be closer to 90,000, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In recent years, public health experts have focused extensively on overdose deaths from heroin and prescription painkillers, which have risen rapidly since the early 2000s. But in 2014, more people died of alcohol-induced causes (30,722) than from overdoses of prescription painkillers and heroin combined (28,647), according to the CDC.

Philip J. Cook, a Duke University professor who studies alcohol consumption patterns, notes that per-capita consumption has been increasing since the late 1990s.

“Since the prevalence of heavy drinking tends to follow closely with per capita consumption, it is likely that one explanation for the growth in alcohol-related deaths is that more people are drinking more,” he wrote in an email.

The number of American adults who drink at least monthly rose by a small but significant amount between 2002 and 2014, from 54.9 percent to 56.9 percent, according to data from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The percentage of women drinking monthly or more rose from 47.9 in 2002 to 51.9 in 2014. And the percentage of women reporting binge drinking, defined as five or more drinks on at least one occasion. rose from 15.7 to 17.4 percent over the same period.

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