Deaths involving alcohol on the rise


ALCOHOL-RELATED deaths are increasing and young men are most likely to be the victims, a study by the Health Research Board has found.

In a report published yesterday, the board questioned the effectiveness of education campaigns to curb alcohol abuse.

There was “no published evidence” that school-based programmes were resulting in a reduction in alcohol-related harm, it found, while it was probable that education campaigns and warning labels did not reduce alcohol-related harm.

However, the report concluded that there was “probable evidence” that setting a minimum price for alcohol, restrictions on its sale to the intoxicated and children, and curbs on advertising might reduce alcohol-related harm. Some 672 deaths from alcohol-related poisoning or overdose were recorded from 2004 to 2008, with the numbers increasing from 125 in 2004 to 150 in 2008.

During the same period there were 3,336 deaths among alcohol-dependent people which were not related to poisoning, with figures increasing from 508 in 2004 to 799 in 2008.

Alcohol was the drug most frequently implicated in all poisoning deaths, with 40 per cent of poisonings involving alcohol. However, half of alcohol-related poisonings also involved other drugs, almost all of which were prescription sedatives or anti-depressants.

Benzodiazapines, such as Valium and diazepam, were found in almost two-thirds of overdose deaths where alcohol was mixed with other drugs. While it could not be determined whether this prescription medication was obtained legally or illegally, any strategy to reduce alcohol-related deaths must consider the role played by benzodiazipines, the report said. It continued: “. . . prescribers and users need to be more aware of the potentially fatal effects of benzodiazipines when used with alcohol.”

Two-thirds of deaths from alcohol poisoning, and overdose involving alcohol and other drugs, were male. More than half of those who died from alcohol poisoning only were under the age of 50, while three-quarters of those who died from an overdose of alcohol and other drugs were under 50.

While the statistics on deaths from poisoning/overdose related to the population as a whole, the board’s study also focused on “non-poisoning” related deaths of people who were alcohol dependent.

Of these, nine out of 10 were due to medical causes, ie diseases related to alcoholism, while the remainder were due to “trauma” such as falls, hanging or choking.

Three-quarters of those who die from alcohol-related diseases were men. Liver disease was the most common cause, accounting for a quarter of alcoholic deaths. Cardiac conditions accounted for 17 per cent, respiratory infections 11 per cent and cancers 9 per cent.

Younger alcoholics, those between the ages of 24 and 35, were most susceptible to liver disease with 36.8 per cent dying from this condition. Prevalence of death from liver disease decreased with age with fewer than 10 per cent of deaths to alcoholics over the age of 75 due to liver disease.

Alcohol-dependent men were far more likely than women to die from traumatic or violent means, such as falling, hanging, choking, drowning or fighting. Almost 80 per cent of those dying through trauma were men.

Alcohol deaths report findings

* Alcohol was implicated in 672 poisoning deaths.

* The median age of those who died of alcohol-only poisoning was 48.

* Two-thirds of those who died from alcohol-only poisoning were male.

* 701 alcohol-dependent people died of alcoholic liver disease.

* Of these, more than one-third were in the 25-34 age group.