More than 30,000 Americans died from alcohol-induced causes last year, a rate not seen in at least 35 years, according to new US government data.
In 2014, there were 30,722 deaths from alcohol poisoning and cirrhosis, or 9.6 deaths per 100,000 people, an increase of 37 percent since 2002, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
This figure of alcohol-induced deaths excludes fatalities from drunk driving, other accidents, and homicides committed under the influence of alcohol, the CDC said.
If those numbers were included, the annual death toll directly or indirectly caused by alcohol would be nearly 90,000.
Philip Cook, a professor at Duke University who studies alcohol consumption patterns and their effects, says that per-capita alcohol consumption in the US has been rising since the late 1990s.
“Since the prevalence of heavy drinking tends to follow closely with per capita consumption, it is likely that one explanation for the growth in alcohol-related deaths is that more people are drinking more,” he wrote in an email to the Washington Post.
In recent years, US health experts have focused extensively on overdose deaths from opioid drugs like heroin and prescription painkillers, which have risen quickly since the early 2000s.
But in 2014, more people died from alcohol-induced causes than from overdoses of heroin and prescription painkillers combined, according to the CDC.
The rise in alcohol consumption among women has been especially pronounced. The percent of women drinking monthly or more rose from 47.9 in 2002 to 51.9 in 2014.
And the percentage of women reporting binge drinking — defined as five or more drinks on at least one occasion — rose from 15.7 to 17.4 percent over the same period.