Alcohol deaths are now responsible for one in 20 mortalities

Alcohol deathsCC: Elevate at Unsplash

According to the latest figures from the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol deaths are now responsible for 5% of mortalities worldwide. While many may assume that those figures come from alcoholism alone, that’s not the case. To understand why alcohol deaths are so high, it’s useful to know how the WHO categorizes them.

Alcohol deaths due to injuries

As anybody who enjoys alcohol will know, it loosens your inhibitions. One of the ways it does this is to increase GABA levels in your brain.

What is GABA? In short, it’s a neurotransmitter that relaxes you. So, while you wouldn’t consider climbing a monument when sober, you may do when drunk.

Additionally, GABA will provide the courage some people need to engage in self-harm. It therefore makes sense that 30% of alcohol deaths come from injuries.

The ways alcohol affects various parts of your body

Did you know that alcohol contributes to a range of digestive diseases? The primary parts of the digestive system that alcohol damages include:

Heavy alcohol consumption is one of the biggest risk factors for esophageal cancer. Additionally, those who are at risk of Alcoholic Liver Disease (ALD) may later enter a dangerous state called Wernicke’s encephalopathy. When said state sets in, it’s almost impossible to treat without a liver transplant.

Collectively, 22% of alcohol deaths come from digestive diseases. As the second commenest cause of liver cirrhois, heavy consumption has the potential to cause significant harm.

Why is alcohol addiction so prevalent?

To those who decry how unnecessary addictions are, it seems absurd that alcoholism continues to be so prevalent. Few addictive substances receive quite as much health coverage. At the same time, it’s an element of society that’s widely celebrated.

With alcohol consumption celebrated throughout popular media, heavily advertised, and easy to access, it’s not surprising that public health campaigns are failing.

As for the science of alcohol addiction, as a substance it’s excellent for self-medicating, it feeds the brain’s reward center, and it introduces an influx of neurotransmitters that soon become addictive in themselves.

Aside from GABA, alcohol increases the amount of dopamine that your brain encounters. As a neurotransmitter that introduces a sense of reward, it plays a role in the short-term euphoria that the brain experiences. Additionally, you’ll hold onto high serotonin levels for longer, inducing feelings of happiness and assurance.

When those with an alcohol addiction sober up, their brains continue to crave the effects of GABA reducing their inhibitions, dopamine leaving them with a sense of reward, and serotonin making them feel happy. If an addiction forms, the thought of entering a period of nausea, withdrawal, and misery makes the aforementioned sensory benefits difficult to resist.

How do we tackle alcohol deaths? As an area of public health that’s hard to navigate, it’s clear that more needs to be done. Until then, we may continue to see a rise in the number of people dying due to alcohol.

About the Author

Laura McKeever
Laura has been a freelance medical writer for eight years. With a BSc in Medical Sciences and an MSc in Physician Assistant Studies, she complements her passion for medical news with real-life experiences. Laura’s most significant experience included writing for international pharmaceutical brands, including GSK.