Jul 012014

By Tammy Gray

Arizona tied for fourth in the nation for the number of alcohol-related deaths, according to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and Navajo County ranks second in the state for the number of adults who binge drink according to a health needs assessment by Summit Healthcare.

The CDC report notes that nationwide, one in ten deaths are due to excessive alcohol consumption. The report states, “Excessive alcohol use led to approximately 88,000 deaths per year from 2006 to 2010, and shortened the lives of those who died by about 30 years.  These deaths were due to health effects from drinking too much over time, such as breast cancer, liver disease, and heart disease; and health effects from drinking too much in a short period of time, such as violence, alcohol poisoning, and motor vehicle crashes.”

New Mexico led the way in alcohol-related deaths, with a total of 16.4 percent deaths attributable to alcohol consumption. Alaska came in second at 15.9 percent, followed by Colorado with 14.2 percent. Arizona and Wyoming both came in at fourth in the nation, with 13.4 percent, however, Arizona had the higher total number of deaths due to Wyoming’s lower population.

Between 2006 and 2010, Arizona had a total of 2,362 deaths directly attributed to alcohol. This included 1,647 males and 716 females. Liver disease due to alcohol consumption was the leading cause of death, totaling 505 cases, followed by motor vehicle accidents at 309, fall injuries at 237, suicide at 234 and homicide at 207.

The remaining causes were a combination of chronic and acute causes such as stroke, hypertension, drowning, aspiration and alcohol poisoning.

The CDC report did not break down deaths by year, but according to the Summit survey, Navajo County had a total of 49 alcohol attributed deaths in 2010, making it the leading cause of mental health and substance abuse deaths. During that same year, there were 33 deaths due to suicide and 17 drug-induced deaths.

According to a county-wide survey, 11.3 percent of adults in Navajo County reported binge-drinking at least once within the 30-day period prior to the survey. That total pushed Navajo County to second among the state’s 15 counties.

The CDC classifies binge drinking as consuming five or more drinks within a two to three hour period. According to the CDC, the average binge drinker does so an average of four times per month and averages eight drinks in each binge period. The CDC notes that binge drinkers are more likely to report driving under the influence and are frequently the victims of vehicle crashes, drowning, sexual assault and alcohol poisoning.

A county health assessment prepared in 2012 based on 2010 survey numbers revealed that four percent of adults in Navajo County are classified as heavy drinkers. The report defines heavy drinking as three or more drinks every day for men and two or more drinks every day for women. The CDC classifies heavy drinking as eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men.

The CDC report did not include underage drinkers in the alcohol-related death totals. In Navajo County, a youth survey indicated that 64.2 percent of high school seniors had consumed alcohol at some point in their life, compared to 72.8 percent statewide, and 39.3 percent had consumed alcohol within 30 days of the survey, compared to 46.8 percent statewide.