Alcohol fatalities are tragic deaths linked to the consumption of alcoholic products. There are several different causes of alcohol-related fatalities, including fatal traffic accidents in which alcohol is a factor, alcohol poisoning, and liver disease. Many alcohol fatalities can be prevented by moderating or eliminating alcohol consumption, and avoiding driving or any dangerous behavior while intoxicated.
One of the most common causes of alcohol-related fatalities is car accidents. Drinking alcohol inhibits a person's ability to think and judge clearly, as well as reducing motor function and alertness. In 2007, the US Department of Transportation reported that 12,998 traffic fatalities, or 31.7% of all traffic fatalities, were linked to at least one driver being under the influence of alcohol. Some people do not realize that any amount of drinking can impair driving abilities; even if a person is capable of passing a blood-alcohol test, he or she may still be operating at a reduced capability and should not be driving.
Alcohol poisoning can occur when a person consumes more alcohol than his or her body can safely handle. While the symptoms of alcohol poisoning may simply manifest as signs of drunkenness, symptoms can quickly worsen and lead to alcohol fatalities in some cases. Some of the symptoms that can indicate alcohol poisoning include difficulty breathing or slowed pulse, vomiting, or unconsciousness. In severe cases, the flood of alcohol into the bloodstream can cause the heart to stop functioning, leading to death if not immediately treated.
When a person is experiencing severe alcohol poisoning, he or she may also be vulnerable to another type of alcohol-related fatality. As the body tries to rid itself of alcohol, it may induce vomiting, even if the person is unconsciousness. Some alcohol fatalities linked to excessive drinking occur because an unconscious person chokes to death on vomit, unable to rouse or turn over to allow the vomit to pass. Some experts recommend never leaving a drunk person to “sleep it off” unattended for this reason.
In the long term, overuse of alcohol can increase the risks for many kinds of fatal disease, including liver disease. Unable to process the excess alcohol over time, the liver begins to break down and become severely scarred, leading to a condition called cirrhosis, which can cause death if untreated. If damage is severe, a full liver transplant may be the only possible solution. Alcohol fatalities can also be caused by developing liver cancer or heart disease, both of which are linked to long-term use of alcohol and alcohol addiction.