According to U.S. federal health authorities, an average of six Americans die from alcohol poisoning each day. Middle-aged, white males have the highest mortality rates.
The CDC found that an average of 2,221 people died of alcohol poisoning annually between 2010 and 2012. Three-quarters of the deaths occurred among 35- to 64-year-olds, the report found, and about three-quarters were men. Men aged 45 to 54 had the highest death rate.
This is the first study in a decade to tally alcohol poisonings for the entire American population. Most previous studies reviewed certain groups, specifically young people.
“Most previous studies have looked at college kids and young people, but the problem is bigger than that,” said Dr. Robert Brewer, who heads the alcohol program at the C.D.C. “It was surprising that the number of deaths was so concentrated among middle-age adults.”
Native Americans and Native Alaskans had the highest rate of deaths from alcohol poisoning, with 49 deaths per one million people. This is far above the approximately nine deaths per one million people that is the average for the country. The bulk of deaths, 67 percent, were among non-Hispanic whites.
The lowest death rate was in Alabama, followed by Texas, Illinois and Virginia. States with the highest death rates were mostly in the Great Plains and the West, but also included two states in New England, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.
Blood-alcohol levels rise sharply when large amounts of alcohol are consumed in a short period of time. Sharply rising blood-alcohol levels overwhelm the body’s ability to respond. Excessive alcohol intake can shut down parts of the brain that control breathing, body temperature and heart rate, causing death.
Such deaths are typically the result of binge drinking at high intensity, the report said. About 38 million adults report binge drinking an average of four times a month, according to the report, but the vast majority of binge drinkers — about 90 percent — are not alcoholics.
Binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in one “occasion” for women, and five or more drinks for men. Alcohol dependence was a contributing cause in just one-third of the deaths, the report found.