It's a cocktail and beer kinda weekend for many Americans. But before you toss back that next margarita or icy cold craft, consider avoiding these top five things that can be a deadly mix with alcohol - for your own health and the well-being of everybody around you.
Walk, Uber, taxi, ask a friend who's not drinking. But don't drink and drive home from a Fourth of July party. In 2014, 9,967 people were killed in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for nearly 31 percent of all traffic-related deaths in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
On this Independence Day weekend alone, the National Safety Council estimates that 466 people may be killed and an additional 53,600 may be seriously injured in motor vehicle crashes during the three-day holiday period. Since 2010, more than 37 percent of all fatal crashes during each Fourth of July holiday have involved alcohol, the Council said.
For those driving home sober from events, make sure you and your passengers are buckled up -- the Council estimates 181 lives could be saved this holiday by seat belts.
Getting tipsy and then riding a bike home isn't a smart alternative to drinking and driving. In fact, trying to navigate any vehicle, large or small, while buzzed can end badly. A number of studies show inebriated cyclists fare worse than sober bike riders.
Drugs: Legal and recreational
Whether you take over-the-counter or prescription medication, many common drugs can cause health problems when mixed with alcohol. A National Institutes of Health study reported last year that almost 42 percent of U.S. adults who drink also report using medications known to interact with alcohol. The older you are, the worse the statistics become. In people over 65 who drink alcohol, nearly 78 percent reported using alcohol-interactive medications for conditions ranging from depression to diabetes to high blood pressure.
"Combining alcohol with medications often carries the potential for serious health risks," Dr. George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), said at the time. "Based on this study, many individuals may be mixing alcohol with interactive medications and they should be aware of the possible harms."
The same goes for recreational drugs. Smoking marijuana and drinking alcohol together can lead to death, for example. According to Northeastern University scientists, marijuana has an antiemetic effect -- it makes it more difficult to vomit. When a person overdoes it with alcohol, the body's natural response is to vomit the toxins out. But if they're smoking pot, too, the body may not be able to rid itself of the alcohol, risking alcohol poisoning and death. Using the two together can also lead to paranoia, poor decision-making, and increased panic, anxiety or feelings of terror. Alcohol and marijuana are also both depressants, as well.
Pools, lakes, rivers, the sea -- even shallow water -- can be hazardous when blended with lots of alcohol. From 2005 to 2014, there were an average of 3,536 fatal unintentional drownings in the U.S. -- about 10 deaths per day. And that doesn't include injuries, including brain damage and paralysis.
The CDC says that among adolescents and adults, alcohol use is involved in up to 70 percent of deaths associated with water recreation, almost a quarter of emergency room visits for drowning, and about 1 in 5 reported boating deaths. The reason: Alcohol can alter balance, coordination and judgment. The sun and heat can heighten its effects, too.
The National Council on Fireworks Safety said in a message to the public this past week that the number of Americans planning to use backyard fireworks this Fourth of July is expected to hit an all-time high. Their safety advice: "Alcohol and fireworks do not mix. Save your alcohol for after the show." When, of course, you'll call for an Uber.