For most of last year, we reported on the enormous amount of emergency room visits linked to opioid overdoses. And while those stories rightfully dominated the headlines, there was another startling fact that seemed to slip under the radar. 2017 also saw an incredible surge in alcohol-related ER cases, particularly among U.S. females.
NPR published a telling piece on the topic this week, highlighting a 61 percent increase in ER alcohol visits throughout the past decade. Citing a study titled Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, the data showed that the rise in chronic American alcoholism grew at a much slower rate. That led study author Aaron White to conclude that a large portion of these cases have to do with binge drinking.
“The lowest hanging fruit in terms of hypotheses is that there must be an increase in risky drinking in some people,” White told the site. “Even though that is not showing up in increases in overall per capita consumption, it’s enough to drive the increase in alcohol-related emergency department visits.”
To put things in perspective, U.S. hospitals are purported to have 30 million ER cases each year. The booze related incidents included everything from chronic liver cirrhosis, to alcohol poisoning, to drunk driving injuries. When compiled, though, they account for serious health issues and, often times, fatalities among the patients.
The female factor puzzled researchers, according to the article. Though still not at the same level as men, alcohol-related ER admittances for women saw a steady increase. White’s figures illustrated that though some cases of binge drinking were reported among this group, pancreatitis and cirrhosis of the liver made up the lion’s share of their visits.
White went on to say that a lack of education may be responsible for the hospitalization of so many. His findings showed that a large portion of patients were simply unaware of the serious health risks associated with drinking. Perhaps because is not considered an illegal narcotic.
“Most people forget that alcohol is a drug that can lead to medical emergencies by itself or provoke other conditions,” White explained. “Even people who drink in moderation should talk about their alcohol use with physicians and other health care workers to avoid any dangerous interactions with medications.”
Indeed, the latest stats showed drinking as the culprit for nearly 90,000 U.S. deaths last year. It has also been linked to several types of cancer and a general shortage of one’s life span. White hoped that, at the very least, repeat ER alcohol visits should not be occurring. Pairing these patients up with case workers or hospital recovery specialists can certainly be a step in the right direction.