Alcohol poisoning: revise your opinion – it’s not really the young who are most vulnerable

When we hear the words “alcohol poisoning” we immediately think of youngsters, fresh out of school, freshly into the bar scene, putting away drinks and shooters at an alarming rate before being rushed to hospital as their systems rebel against the massive amount of toxins consumed. It’s time to revise that picture. Your typical alcohol poisoning hospitalization or fatality is far more likely to involve a person over the age of 35.

Six Americans a day die from alcohol poisoning – and three out of four are over 35

No fewer than six Americans die every day as a result of consuming too much alcohol too quickly for their bodies to cope. And the CDC has found that 70% – 75% of alcohol poisoning fatalities affect those over the age of 35. These are people who believe they “know how to hold their drink”, and most of them are white males out for an evening on the binge.

They’re not college students. They’re real adults with careers and families, and the last thing they think of is the possibility that that their bodies just can’t cope with the amount of alcohol they’re consuming. They may not even be alcoholics as such, in fact, the CDC reports that binge drinking is commonest among occasional drinkers who are not dependant on alcohol.

Quantity and time

Binge drinkers don’t just drink a lot of alcohol – they drink it fast. Four to five drinks within a period of two hours places people at risk as their bodies struggle to cope with metabolizing alcohol which is, essentially, a toxic substance. Many of the people who die from alcohol poisoning are “weekend drinkers” or “social drinkers”, and the last thing they suspect is that they have an alcohol problem. But killing yourself through too much drink is clearly a ‘problem’ of the first magnitude and the saddest thing is that these deaths are preventable.

Even researchers were surprised

If you were to search ‘binge drinking’ on the internet, you’d find that the majority of articles on the subject target college students – but they’re not the largest at-risk group. Men in the prime of their lives are, in fact, far more likely to drink to the point where alcohol poisoning sets in. The belief that alcohol poisoning only affects the very young is a dangerous misconception, the CDC says.

A widespread risk few are aware of

According to the definition of binge drinking as being the consumption of 4 – 5 drinks in the space of two hours, an alarming number of Americans binge drink on a fairly regular basis. According to figures from the CD, 38 million US adults are binge-drinkers, and they’ll go on a binge as often as four times a month, consuming an average of 8 drinks at a sitting.

The problem may be much greater than figures show

The CDC believes that as many as half the incidents of alcohol poisoning deaths are not reported. That means that the absolute figures for alcohol poisoning deaths may be as much as double the reported figures – a tragic toll of avoidable deaths among society’s most productive people at an age when they are likely to have family responsibilities to take care of.

CDC figures reflect the number of deaths caused by alcohol poisoning as being around 80,000 year, but if only half of these is being reported, that number could be closer to 160,000 people.

As you get older, less drinks constitute a binge

Psychology Today reports that people binge less often once they are adults than they did when they were at college. They’re also likely to consume less drinks in one sitting. Although this might seem like contradictory information, it’s possible that our bodies become less able to tolerate abuse as we age, and that alcohol poisoning can occur after less drinks as we grow older.

This might also be why older people are so susceptible to alcohol poisoning. They got away with even more drinks when they were college age, so they see their current binges as being relatively moderate when compared with the way they used to drink when they were younger.

Binge drinking is extremely dangerous: get help in order to stop if you can’t do so alone

Although most binge drinkers aren’t alcoholics in that they are not physically dependant on alcohol, they may be people with a psychological dependence that makes them feel unable to relax and socialize in groups unless alcohol is consumed.

The only way to overcome this kind of problem is through counselling that helps people to free themselves from psychological issues that make them dependant on social drinking in order to relax and have fun.

Those who are unable to make the lifestyle change and quit binge drinking should consider going for substance abuse counselling, even if they do not fit the classic profile of the alcoholic.

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