Alcohol misuse causing more trips to the ER

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The number of people visiting the emergency department (ED) for alcohol-related causes grew from about 3 to 5 million over nine years. That’s an increase of nearly 50 percent in the rate of visits per 100,000 people in the population.

And the rates of these visits for women are rapidly increasing.

Researchers from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism looked at U.S. ED visits from 2006 to 2014 for people ages 12 years and older.

The study examined two types of drinking. The first was acute alcohol consumption, which is alcohol misuse over a short period of time. This includes severe intoxication and alcohol poisoning.

The second type was chronic consumption. This is long-term drinking, with health problems such as alcohol withdrawal and cirrhosis of the liver.

Drinking themselves sick

Per the study, the rate of ED visits for alcohol consumption increased 47 percent. The rate for acute consumption went up 40 percent, and the rate for chronic consumption increased about 58 percent.

The researchers were concerned with the increase in female ED visits. Men still account for more alcohol-related ED visits overall, but the rate of visits increased more for women. This was due largely to chronic alcohol misuse.

Why is this troubling? Women may be more vulnerable to the harmful effects of alcohol. And women’s drinking habits are approaching those of men.

The study also showed that the rate of ED visits for acute alcohol consumption was highest among people ages 45 to 54. For chronic consumption, the rates were highest among those 45 to 54 and 55 to 64. The biggest spikes in chronic consumption occurred among those 25 to 34 and 55 to 64.

The researchers said the number of people in the U.S. who drink alcohol and the total amount of alcohol consumed remained about the same during the study’s time frame. They suspect the increase in ED visits comes from the way alcohol is used by certain drinkers.

The study was published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Heavy drinking vs. binge drinking

Drinking too much alcohol not only threatens your health, but often turns deadly. Each year alcohol misuse causes 1 in 10 deaths in adults ages 20 to 64.

Both heavy drinking and binge drinking can harm you, but what’s the difference between them? It depends on how many drinks you have and when. Our infographic spills the facts.


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