Typically when we think of an alcoholic succumbing to cirrhosis of the liver, it is after decades of abuse. But some newly released data is pointing to a change in that statistic. Apparently liver disease is becoming much more common for chronic drinkers in their 30’s, which is an alarming stat that we think is worth sharing.
NPR.org published a telling piece on this latest research and the trends that many doctors are seeing when it comes to cirrhosis. The stats were published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and covered a period from 1999 to 2016. Within that timeframe, chronic liver disease as a whole saw a drastic increase; but its the death tolls among young people that have been raising the most alarms.
In blunt terms, the number of 25- to 34-year-olds who have died each year from alcohol-related liver disease almost tripled between 1999 and 2016. The annual increase rate has now hit around 10 percent; with an initial total of 259 deaths in 1999 and a much higher total of 767 deaths in 2016.
University of Michigan assistant professor of medicine (and liver specialist), Dr. Elliot Tapper, spoke with NPR’s writers and shared his personal firsthand accounts of what he’s been seeing.
“What’s happening with young people is dismaying to say the least,” he told the site. “A young man I’ve been recently seeing, his whole body was yellow. He could hardly move. It was difficult for him to breathe, and he wasn’t eating anything. We had long, tearful conversations, but he continued to struggle with alcohol addiction.”
Not surprisingly, these new findings have led to a lot of speculations as to the causes of the spike. Another medical professional interviewed for the article, Dr. Vijay Shah who works at the Mayo Clinic, felt that outside global factors may be contributing to the rise in 30-something chronic alcoholism.
“It correlates with the global financial crisis,” he explained. “We hypothesize that there may be a loss of opportunity, and the psychological burden that comes with that may have driven some of those patients to abusive drinking.”
Regardless, these issues are raising much concern. Particularly because of how fast-acting these liver disease cases have become. Typically, cirrhosis occurs after 30-plus years of heavy drinking. The fact that it’s happening to people in their 20’s and 30’s certainly merits further investigations.
The only possible good news, is that modern medicine is helping to reduce the amount of deaths related to this problem. Thankfully, this condition can be treated and overall, liver disease only accounts for 1.4 percent of total deaths for people aged 25-34.