Binge-drinking may seem like a primarily youthful indiscretion, linked as it so often is to college in general, and fraternities in particular. About half of college students who drink binge, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, and there are indeed all kinds of problems that come along with that, including assault, injury, and death.
But it’s middle-aged adults who are most at risk when it comes to dying of acute alcohol poisoning specifically—drinking so much that the high concentration of alcohol in the blood shuts down parts of the brain. A report published this week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 76 percent of alcohol poisoning deaths between 2010 and 2012 were adults between the ages of 35 and 64. Men accounted for 75 percent of the deaths, leaving men aged 45 to 54 with the highest death rate: 25.6 deaths per 1 million people. Previous research has found most binge-drinking episodes to be reported by adults older than 26, and that men binge-drink twice as much as women, logically putting those groups at higher risk of alcohol poisoning.
It may be that older adults have had more time to develop alcohol dependence, thus putting them at higher risk than college-aged drinkers. But while alcohol dependence was a contributing cause (though not the main cause) in 30 percent of these deaths, the CDC notes that 90 percent of binge-drinkers are not alcohol-dependent. Of course, both alcohol abuse and dependence can lead to other kinds of deaths that aren’t included here, such as those from liver disease, or drunk driving.
Other findings from the report include that non-Hispanic whites account for 68 percent of deaths, followed by Hispanics at 15 percent; and Alaska has the highest death rate (46.5 per 1 million people) while Alabama has the lowest (5.3 per 1 million people), which is in line with previous CDC research correlating colder winters with more binge-drinking.