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New Yorkers more boozy than ever; drinking kills 1,500 yearly

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Here’s sobering news: New Yorkers are imbibing booze in increasingly deadlier doses.

About 1,500 residents die annually as a result of alcohol-related deaths — from car crashes to poisoning to chronic liver disease — according to the city Health Department, which yesterday released its first comprehensive study on drinking.

“Alcohol misuse can also disrupt one’s well-being by jeopardizing work, finances and relationships,” said Dr. Thomas Farley, the city’s health commissioner. “Cutting down or quitting is possible.”

Alcohol also contributes to 1 in 10 hospital cases with emergency room visits, vaulting to almost 74,000 in 2009 from 22,000 in 2003 among New Yorkers aged 21 to 64.

Since residents in higher-income areas historically drink more, nabes with the highest proportion of emergency room visits due to alcohol include Greenwich Village-SoHo, Chelsea-Clinton and Greepoint, Brooklyn.

Excessive drinking is a major factor in the city’s boozing problem: While almost half of adult New Yorkers don’t even drink, the majority of those that do are either “heavy” or “binge” drinkers. Binge means they’ve consumed five or more drinks on one occasion in the past 30 days, the survey said.

The findings came as no surprise to some of Gotham’s residents.

The problem, said Danny Campbell, 29, of the Lower East Side, is that New Yorkers “don’t know when to stop.”

“There’s more drunks here than in any other city,” he added.

Statistically, that’s hard to say. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey released last month compares states, not cities, and the percentage of binge drinking among adults in New York falls in a middle range.

Annually, 79,000 Americans on average died from alcohol-associated causes from 2001 to 2005.

“Binge drinking is connected with unintended pregnancies and with crime,” said Dr. Robert Brewer, leader of the CDC’s Alcohol Program.

“Those need to be considered when there’s a societal debate about what is an appropriate level of drinking and the price (of alcohol).”

The CDC has made suggestions to policymakers to potentially curb binge drinking, including limiting the number of places that might serve alcohol in a given area.

A city Health Department spokeswoman said it has its own recommendations, such as requiring health care providers to screen for alcohol problems and for the alcohol industry to reduce advertising that appeals to youth.

(With Heidi Lee)

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By the numbers

1,537: City adults who suffered alcohol-related deaths in 2008.

100,000: Hospitalizations linked to alcohol in the city each year.

4,000: Alcohol-related emergency department visits by underage New Yorkers in 2009.

47: Percent of adult New Yorkers who say they don't drink.

Source: city health department

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