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More Americans are drinking themselves to death

CBS News Live
CBS News Miami Live

MIAMI - Alcohol-related deaths are on the rise in the United States.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said there were about 178-thousand deaths from excessive alcohol use from 2020 through 2021, which is a 29 percent increase from just five years earlier. At the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were an average of about 488 deaths per day from excessive alcohol drinking.

Researchers from the CDC and Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research captured 58 total causes of death related directly or indirectly to excessive alcohol use. Drinking excessively can lead to deaths directly related to alcohol, such as alcoholic liver disease, alcohol poisoning, suicide by excessive alcohol use, crashes and falls, and fetal alcohol syndrome, among others. Deaths can also be partially attributable to excessive alcohol use, such as chronic hepatitis and certain cancers, heart disease, and stroke.

The report also found more men die from excessive alcohol use than women, but women are starting to close the gap.

For women, excessive alcohol use-related deaths increased by about 35% from 2016-17 to 2020-21, and death rates were highest from heart disease and stroke. Excessive drinking-related deaths among men increased nearly 27% in that same time period, with most of those deaths related to chronic conditions caused by alcohol.

The increase in excessive drinking-related deaths documented in this study is not an isolated trend. For the past two decades, deaths from excessive alcohol use have been increasing in the United States, the CDC said.

Past studies have found that people bought more alcohol, particularly hard liquor and wine, during the early part of the pandemic. Binge drinking among adults between the ages of 35 of 50 in 2022 was higher than any other year during the past decade, other research has found.

The new report mentions that more permissive policies that allowed alcohol deliveries and carryout drinks during the pandemic made drinking more accessible. Some people may also have delayed getting help from a doctor or hospital due to their fear of catching COVID.

"Stress, loneliness, and social isolation; and mental health conditions might also have contributed to the increase in deaths from excessive alcohol use during the COVID-19 pandemic," the report said.

The authors suggest states should consider creating policies that will limit people's access to alcohol and increase its price, such as increasing certain taxes on alcohol.

"We know that there's a lot of evidence about what works to prevent excessive drinking and to reduce alcohol-related harm. But the strategies that we know work are often underused in the US," said study author Dr. Marissa B. Esser, from CDC's National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention. "Making alcohol less accessible and less available by having fewer places that sell it, or spreading out the number of places that are selling alcohol can help to create environments that support people's choice to drink less."

While the new study focused on excessive alcohol use, it didn't measure the harms of all levels of alcohol use. Some studies have shown negative health impacts from any level of drinking.

If people do choose to drink - and most American adults do - US Dietary Guidelines suggest no more than two drinks a day for men and no more than one drink a day for women.

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