Vital Signs: Alcohol Poisoning Deaths — United States, 2010–2012

Dafna Kanny, PhD; Robert D. Brewer, MD; Jessica B. Mesnick, MPH; Leonard J. Paulozzi, MD; Timothy S. Naimi, MD; Hua Lu, MS


Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2015;63(53):1238-1242. 

In This Article


During 2010–2012, there was an annual average of 2,221 alcohol poisoning deaths, an age-adjusted rate of 8.8 deaths per 1 million population, among persons aged ≥15 years in the United States (Table 1). Of these deaths, 1,681 (75.7%) were among adults aged 35–64 years, and 1,696 (76.4%) were among men. The highest death rate from alcohol poisoning was among men aged 45–54 years (25.6 deaths per 1 million). Although non-Hispanic whites accounted for the majority of alcohol poisoning deaths (67.5%; 1,500 deaths), the highest age-adjusted alcohol poisoning death rate was among American Indians/Alaska Natives (49.1 deaths per 1 million). A total annual average of 44 deaths (2.0%) involved persons aged 15–20 years, who were under the legal drinking age of 21.

The age-adjusted alcohol poisoning death rate in states ranged from 5.3 per 1 million in Alabama to 46.5 per 1 million in Alaska (Table 2). Twenty states had alcohol poisoning death rates greater than the overall national rate of 8.8 per 1 million, and two states (Alaska and New Mexico) had alcohol poisoning death rates >30 per 1 million. States with the highest death rates were located mostly in the Great Plains and western United States, but also included two New England states (Rhode Island and Massachusetts) (Figure).


Age-adjusted alcohol poisoning* death rates, by state§ — National Vital Statistics System, United States, 2010–2012
* Alcohol poisoning deaths included those occurring among those aged ≥15 years in which alcohol poisoning was classified as the underlying (i.e., principal) cause of death based on International Classification of Diseases, 10th Revision (ICD-10) codes X45 (accidental poisoning by and exposure to alcohol) and Y15 (poisoning by and exposure to alcohol, undetermined intent).
Rates per 1 million population for persons aged ≥15 years were calculated using U.S. Census bridged-race population for 2010–2012, and were age-adjusted to the 2000 U.S. Census standard population.
§The average annual number of alcohol poisoning deaths in Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, North Dakota, and Vermont was less than seven and therefore, did not meet standards of reliability and precision to calculate age-adjusted death rates.

Alcohol dependence was listed as a contributing cause of death in an annual average of 677 (30.4%) of the deaths from alcohol poisoning, and hypothermia was listed as a contributing cause of death in an annual average of 134 (6.0%) deaths. Drug poisoning and drug use mental disorders were listed as contributing causes of death in an annual average of 62 (2.8%) and 86 (3.9%) deaths from alcohol poisoning, respectively.