Last Updated on October 29, 2021
When considering the negative effects of alcohol, most people think of the brain, the liver, and the heart. But alcohol-related injuries—physical injuries—are a significant public health problem. In this article we’ll explore the types of these injuries, how they happen, and how people can be safer if they choose to drink alcohol.
Injuries Related to Alcohol Use
Excessive alcohol use is the cause of more than 95,000 deaths annually in the United States. And of those deaths, a significant percentage are due to injuries, usually due to extreme intoxication. (Most of the agencies studying data distinguish between “intentional” and “unintentional”1 injuries.)
According to the CDC2, “Drinking too much alcohol increases the risk of injuries, including motor vehicle crashes, falls, drownings, and burns.” (And this is in addition to other potential effects of heavy drinking, such as sexual assault, domestic violence, homicide, and suicide.)
And the American College of Surgeons3 weighs in: “The most common contributory factor to injury occurrence is alcohol abuse.” Further, “Alcohol is involved in some way in 30 percent to 50 percent4 of all traumatic injuries…30 percent to 50 percent of injured patients have a positive blood alcohol concentration at the time of trauma center admission.”
Injuries in the workplace are tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. “There were 305 fatal workplace injuries5 in 2018 from unintentional overdose from nonmedical use of drugs or alcohol. That was an increase of 12 percent from 2017. From 2011 to 2018, the number of fatal injuries from unintentional overdose increased on average 24 percent per year.”
And finally, as we all know, drunk driving is a serious issue. In 2016, 10,497 people in the United States died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes, accounting for 28% of the country’s traffic-related deaths. Every day, 29 people in the United States die6 from a motor vehicle crash in which a driver has been drinking—one death every 59 minutes.
Binge Drinking Is Often a Common Factor
Often these injuries are the result of binge drinking. The NIAAA defines binge drinking7 as 4 drinks in two hours for women or 5 drinks for men. SAMHSA confirms8 these numbers, and adds “on at least one day in the past month.”
COVID-19 has exacerbated the situation. Over the course of the pandemic, people have been drinking more—in some cases, much more—to deal with the stress and anxiety of quarantine. A recent survey9 of adults’ alcohol consumption during the pandemic found that 34% of those questioned reported binge drinking. Even more sobering, 7% reported “extreme binge drinking,” defined as binge drinking 10 or more times per month.
Most people who drink alcohol do not suffer injuries, needless to say. One glass of wine is not likely to cause someone to fall down a flight of stairs. (Though that said, some people are more susceptible to intoxication. Factors to consider include gender, weight, and metabolism, among others.)
But binge drinking clearly plays a significant role in injuries—and is a preventable cause.
Preventing Alcohol-Related Injuries
Many people want to have a beer, a glass of wine, or a cocktail now and then. Most of the time, moderate drinking does not result in injury or more serious outcomes. But excessive alcohol can affect motor coordination and control, not to mention judgment, and can result in serious injury, or worse.
The best way to avoid these types of injuries is to cut down on drinking. (Of course, if you find yourself in a situation in which you’ve had too much to drink, it’s a good idea to have a friend to help you get home safely.)
If you think your drinking is leaving you at risk for serious injury, maybe it’s time to get in touch with us. At Ria, our telehealth-based method helps people control their alcohol use, and abstinence isn’t required. Our non-judgmental staff, FDA-approved medications, and evidence-based approach will “retrain your brain” so that the craving for alcohol will be pushed into the background, or eliminated entirely.
Having a drink or two is one thing. Falling down a flight of stairs is another. As we always advise, in the realm of harm reduction, we’d like you to be with us. Your family and friends will likely agree.