Ways Alcohol Can Kill

Alcohol is very sneaky. What starts out as an occasional drink for relaxation can turn deadly. Sometimes this can happen quickly and other times more slowly.  The ways alcohol can kill may surprise you. Or perhaps, you already know the dark places it can take you.

Alcohol-related accidents are not the only major player in ways alcohol can kill. There are so many ugly sides to this seemingly pleasurable liquid. From the often-deadly alcohol-related car accidents to the sneaky unexpected alcohol overdose at a party, alcohol is much more dangerous than most people like to acknowledge.

If you feel that you or a loved one may have a problem with drinking, help is only a phone call away at 815-384-1376.

Alcohol Death Toll

Each year, an alarming 88,000 people die from alcohol-related causes. This ranks alcohol as the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S. (The first is tobacco, while the second is poor diet and physical inactivity). Looking deeper at the 88,000 alcohol-related deaths each year, approximately 62,000 of them are men and 26,000 are women.

Deadly Thirst

Since the death toll from alcohol-related causes is so high, it is important to understand the ways alcohol can kill. The leading causes of alcohol-related deaths are:

  • alcohol poisoning
  • cancer
  • car accidents
  • heart failure
  • liver damage
  • violence

Alcohol Poisoning

When one drinks a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time it can cause death by alcohol poisoning. Consuming high levels of alcohol quickly can shut down critical areas of the brain that control breathing, heart rate, and body temperature. This results in death. 

It is estimated a little more than 38 million U.S. adults binge drink. This is when one drinks an average of four times per month and consumes an average of eight drinks per binge. Binge drinking is considered consuming four or more drinks for women and five or more drinks for men on one occasion. The more you consume, the greater your risk of death. 

Alcohol poisoning deaths are a heartbreaking reminder of the dangers of excessive alcohol use, which is a leading cause of preventable deaths in the U.S.”

The Quiet Killer

Alcohol poisoning is extremely dangerous — and sometimes deadly. Drinking too much too quickly can potentially lead to coma and death. Other alcohol poisoning signs and symptoms include:

  • Confusion 
  • Vomiting 
  • Seizures 
  • Slow breathing 
  • Irregular breathing 
  • Blue-tinged skin or pale skin 
  • Low body temperature – hypothermia 
  • Passing out – unable to be awakened

Complications from Alcohol Poisoning

Knowing more about the ways alcohol can kill could make the difference between life and death for you or a loved one. There are many devastating and sometimes deadly results from consuming too much alcohol. Here are other fatal results that can arise from alcohol poisoning:

  • Choking – Alcohol may cause vomiting. Because it reduces your gag reflex, this increases the risk of choking on vomit if you pass out. 
  • Stopping breathing – Accidentally inhaling vomit into your lungs can lead to a serious or fatal interruption of breathing, known as asphyxiation. 
  • Severe dehydration – Vomiting can result in severe dehydration, leading to dangerously low blood pressure and fast heart rate. 
  • Seizures – Your blood sugar level may drop low enough to cause a seizure. 
  • Hypothermia – Your body temperature may drop so low that it leads to cardiac arrest. 
  • Irregular heartbeat – Alcohol poisoning can cause the heart to beat irregularly or even stop. 
  • Brain damage – Heavy drinking may cause irreversible brain damage. 
  • Death – Any of the issues above can lead to death. 

Drunk Driving

Every day, about 30 people die in drunk-driving accidents in the U.S. That’s one death every 50 minutes from alcohol-related accidents in the United States. An estimated one-third of all traffic crash fatalities in the United States involve drunk drivers.

In 2018, there were 10,511 people killed in these preventable crashes. In fact, on average over 10,000 people die each year in drunk-driving crashes. 

Dangers of Alcohol Overdose

An alcohol overdose occurs when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain begin to shut down. These areas of the brain control basic life-support functions like breathing, heart rate, and temperature control. Symptoms of alcohol overdose include:

  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Clammy skin
  • Slow heart rate
  • Mental confusion
  • Trouble breathing
  • Difficulty staying conscious
  • Extremely low body temperature
  • No gag reflex -which prevents choking

Alcohol Overdose – What can I do?

Just knowing the facts about overdose from alcohol can save a life. Alcohol overdose can lead to permanent brain damage or death; meanwhile, taking opioids, sleeping pills or anti-anxiety medications can increase your risk of an overdose. It is very dangerous to assume that an unconscious person will be fine by sleeping it off. One potential danger of alcohol overdose is choking on one’s own vomit.

Alcohol at very high levels can slow signals in the brain that control automatic responses such as the gag reflex. With no gag reflex, a person who drinks to the point of passing out is in danger of choking and dying from a lack of oxygen. Even if the person survives, an alcohol overdose like this can lead to long-lasting brain damage.

You Can Save a Life

Get to know the danger signals. If you suspect that someone has overdosed on alcohol, call 911 immediately. Do not wait for the person to have all the symptoms, as any one of these symptoms is potentially deadly on its own. Everyone needs to know that a person who has passed out from drinking can die. Do not play doctor—cold showers, hot coffee, and walking do not reverse the effects of alcohol overdose. In fact, these can make things worse. While waiting for medical help to arrive:

  • Be prepared to provide information to the paramedics. Know the type and amount of alcohol the person drank, if possible, as well as any other drugs they took. Provide any health information that you have about the person, such as medications currently taking, allergies to medications, and any existing health conditions. 
  • Do not leave an intoxicated person alone. They are at risk of getting injured from falling or choking. Keep the person on the ground in a sitting or partially upright position, rather than in a chair. 
  • Help a person who is vomiting. Have the person lean forward to prevent choking. If a person is unconscious or lying down, roll them onto one side with an ear toward the ground to prevent choking. 
  • Stay alert to keep your friends and family safe. And remember—you can avoid the risk of an alcohol overdose by drinking responsibly if you choose to drink, or by not drinking at all. 

Alcohol’s Effects on the Body

Alcohol’s impact on your body starts from the first sip. While an occasional glass of wine with dinner is not a cause for concern, the increasing effects of drinking wine, beer, or spirits can quickly take its toll. To reverse or improve the harmful effects of alcohol on the body, a person should reduce the amount they drink or abstain from drinking altogether

It is evident that alcohol can cause drastic effects on various systems of the body. The short-term effects on the brain and other parts of the body can be very serious. The more alcohol that is consumed in a short amount of time, the more serious the potential damage. Long-term effects are more dire and lead to a multitude of diseases and life-altering conditions.


Alcohol interferes with the brain’s communication pathways. This can affect the way the brain looks and works, as well as changing your mood and behavior. Thus, it can make it harder to think clearly and move with coordination.


Drinking a lot over a long time or too much on a single occasion can damage the heart, causing problems including: 

  • Cardiomyopathy – Stretching and drooping of heart muscle 
  • Arrhythmias – Irregular heartbeat 
  • High blood pressure   
  • Stroke 


Heavy or excessive drinking takes a toll on the liver, thus leading to a variety of problems including: 

  • Steatosis, or fatty liver 
  • Alcoholic hepatitis 
  • Fibrosis 
  • Cirrhosis 


Alcohol causes the pancreas to produce toxic substances that can eventually lead to pancreatitis. This is a dangerous inflammation and swelling of the blood vessels. This is both painful and disruptive to digestion.  


There is a strong scientific consensus on the link between alcohol consumption and several types of cancer. The consumption of alcoholic beverages is a known human carcinogen. Furthermore, the more alcohol a person regularly drinks the higher the risk of developing an alcohol-related cancer. Approximately 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths in the United States are alcohol-related. Alcohol consumption can lead to the following types of cancer:

  • Head and neck cancer
  • Esophageal cancer 
  • Liver cancer
  • Breast cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Stomach cancer

Immune System:

Excessive consumption of alcohol greatly weakens your immune system, thus making your body a much easier target for disease.  Chronic drinkers are more likely to contract diseases like pneumonia and tuberculosis than those who do not drink too much.  Heavy consumption on even a single occasion slows your body’s ability to ward off infections. 

Alcohol Deaths Can Be Prevented

Taking better precautions with alcohol, as well as simply knowing more about it, can make a huge impact in the effort to save lives. Admitting there might be a problem and seeking help to overcome this substance’s grip on you is another solution.

Think about the differences between happy and healthy vs. harmful and hurtful. A successful recovery from alcohol abuse can be the lifesaving difference between a bright future and one tragically cut short.

Please reach out today if you or someone you know is suffering from alcohol-related issues. Our professionals and treatment facilities specialize in helping people overcome alcohol dependency. You can do this, and you are worth it!

Written by Susan Way


  1. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/alcohol-facts-and-statistics
  2. https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2015/p0106-alcohol-poisoning.html
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-poisoning/symptoms-causes/syc-20354386
  4. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohols-effects-health/alcohols-effects-body
  5. https://www.nhtsa.gov/risky-driving/drunk-driving
  6. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-dangers-of-alcohol-overdose