Alcohol Related Deaths
Alcohol Related Deaths. Long term abusive and careless drinking can result in fatalities
that are directly or indirectly related to out-of-control drinking.
Picture this scenario. Miss Thomas was the health teacher at a large public school in Chicago.
Due to the interest expressed by her students, Miss Thomas decided to teach them about drug abuse and drug
addiction for the next two weeks. Since alcohol is the most widely used and abused "drug," Miss Thomas dedicated
one entire week to the discussion of alcohol abuse and alcoholism.
The Students Agree to do Online Research
As part of the "contract" that was agreed to by the students, they would do some online research about various
drug and alcohol-related topics before Miss Thomas would discuss them in class. This way, Miss Thomas would be able
to discuss topics that her students were somewhat knowledgeable about while also being able to gather important
feedback from her students.
The Topic: Alcohol Related Deaths
During the first week of lectures when Miss Thomas was going to discuss alcohol abuse and alcoholism, she
scheduled an introduction on Monday and then scheduled the following topic for discussion on Tuesday and Wednesday:
"Alcohol Related Deaths."
More specifically, on Tuesday, she and the class would focus on "short-term" alcohol related deaths and on
Wednesday, they would discuss alcohol related deaths from a "long-term" perspective.
When Tuesday arrived, Miss Thomas gave a brief overview of the topic and then asked the class to not only list
some of the more common "short-term" alcohol related deaths, but to also give some examples.
Short Term Alcohol Related Deaths
Since her students had already done some preliminary research on the topic, they quickly came up with a number
For instance, many students raised their hands and mentioned the following alcohol related deaths that commonly
happened from short-term alcohol abuse and alcoholism. They also included some examples.
- Alcohol-related traffic fatalities. For instance, the death of innocent "strangers" by
drivers who were driving "under the influence" of alcohol.
- Fatal alcohol poisoning. For example, people who drank so much alcohol when involved in
binge drinking that they died from an alcohol overdose.
- Alcohol-related homicides. For instance, people killed by others who had been
- Alcohol-related suicides. For example, people who killed themselves after they had been
- Alcohol-related accidents. For instance, people at work who were killed by a coworker who
was operating machinery while under the influence of alcohol.
Miss Thomas thanked her students for their relevant answers and examples and then asked her students to look
more closely at the examples they gave. Miss Thomas pointed out that while some people died as a result of their
drinking, other people died as a result of others who were drinking.
For instance, when most people focus on alcohol-related traffic fatalities, they usually think of drivers who
were not drinking getting killed by other drivers who were driving while "under the influence" of alcohol.
As articulated by Miss Thomas, "what about people who had been drinking getting killed in traffic accidents by
others who were NOT drinking?" "As an example, think about the drunk individuals who get killed because they walked
into the path of oncoming traffic."
Expanded Examples of Short Term Alcohol Related Deaths
When her students heard this, they immediately expanded on the following examples:
- Alcohol-related homicides. Not only people getting killed by others who were "under the
influence" of alcohol, but also people getting killed BECAUSE they were drinking. For example, consider people
who are so belligerent and hostile due to excessive drinking that they instigate a fight with someone who kills
- Alcohol-related accidents. It's relatively easy to think of innocent people at work
getting accidentally killed by another person who was "under the influence" of alcohol but what about people
who die as a result of their drinking? Indeed, what about people who are "under the influence" getting
accidentally killed by others because of their own negligence?
Now that her students were "armed" with this information, Miss Thomas asked them to come up with some other
examples of short-term alcohol related deaths that are less common than the previously mentioned examples.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
When no one could come up with anything, Miss Thomas asked her class to think about alcohol-related deaths to
children. With this "hint" one of the students then mentioned children who lost their lives due to complications
resulting from severe fetal alcohol syndrome ( a totally preventable condition caused by mothers who drink alcohol
while they are pregnant).
"Good work" Miss Thomas stated. "That's exactly what I had in mind."
Long Term Alcohol Related Deaths
After completing the discussion of short-term alcohol related deaths the previous day, on Wednesday Miss Thomas
shifted her focus to long-term alcohol related deaths. Once again, Miss Thomas wanted her students to form a list
of these alcohol-related deaths and to provide some examples.
It soon became apparent that all of the long-term alcohol related deaths the students listed were associated
with health problems and medical conditions by people who were chronic alcohol abusers or alcoholics.
Alcohol Related Cancer
One of the students, for example, mentioned alcohol related fatalities due to cancer. When Miss Thomas asked for
some examples, her students quickly mentioned various kinds of cancer they remembered from their online
Indeed, one by one, the students raised their hands and eventually constructed the following list that Miss
Thomas wrote on the blackboard:
- Cancer of the larynx
- Colon cancer
- Kidney cancer
- Cancer of the rectum
- Liver cancer
- Throat cancer
- Cancer of the stomach
- Esophagus cancer
Non-Cancer Related Deaths From Chronic Abusive Drinking
At this point, Miss Thomas asked the class to list some of the non-cancer related deaths that were directly or
indirectly associated with long term, abusive drinking.
Similar to the list developed by the students regarding alcohol-related cancer, the students quickly came up
with the following list, along with examples.
- Ulcers. Mainly ulcers that are due to the perforation of the intestines and/or the
- Diabetes. As pointed out by one male student, "long term, excessive drinking can lead to
diabetes but it isn't necessarily the diabetes that kills people. This is because two out of every three
individuals with diabetes eventually die from a stroke or from some sort of heart disease such as a heart
- Pneumonia. As stated by one of the girls in the class, "long term excessive drinking can
directly or indirectly lead to pneumonia. Keep in mind, however, that most people who die from pneumonia
actually die from pneumonia complications."
- Infections. Such as severe kidney and urinary tract infections.
- Cardiovascular problems. Such as strokes and heart attacks.
- Kidney failure. Interestingly, long term excessive drinking can lead to kidney failure,
especially when the person also has liver disease.
- Alcohol-induced coma. This is especially the case when the problem drinker also abused
- Alcohol-induced pancreatitis. This is inflammation of the pancreas.
- Liver disease. Examples include hepatitis C and cirrhosis of the liver.
Death Due to Chronic Alcoholism
Miss Thomas was pleased with the fairly comprehensive list of non-cancer related fatalities by her students. She
then said that there was one important long-term alcohol related fatality that was missing. As a "hint" Miss Thomas
asked her students about the following: "what about the transition from alcohol abuse to alcohol dependency?"
While most of the students were still puzzled by this "hint," a girl in the back of the class came up with the
"correct" answer, namely, "death due to long term alcoholism."
"Exactly what I was looking for" claimed Miss Thomas. Now try to think of some examples." One boy in the front
of the room raised his hand and said "how about death from extremely severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms when
alcoholics suddenly stop drinking?"
Death Due to Alcohol Related Malnutrition
"That's one of the two answers I was looking for. Can anyone give me another example?" When no one could think
of anything, Miss Thomas once again gave her students a "hint." "Think about diet and nutrition by heavy
Obviously this hint "worked" because a girl in the front of the room raised her hand and stated the following:
"what about alcoholics who die prematurely due to malnutrition?" "Great work. That's precisely the answer I was
looking for" exclaimed Miss Thomas.
"Now, tell me why so many alcoholics die prematurely due to malnutrition?" asked Miss Thomas. One boy in the
middle of the class raised his hand and said: "they die because they have an extremely poor diet."
"And why is this" asked Miss Thomas. "Because they are so obsessed with drinking that they often neglect eating
properly" answered one of the female students. "Good work" exclaimed Miss Thomas.
"Now, let's view this from a slightly different perspective" Miss Thomas stated. "What if various alcoholics eat
very nutritious meals every day? Can they still die prematurely due to malnutrition?"
A male student raised his hand and said: "yes, if they can't properly digest their food." With this answer, Miss
Thomas seemed overjoyed because her students were really thinking things through very thoroughly.
"You just gave me a specific example of what I am looking for" exclaimed Miss Thomas. "In more general terms,
however, many, if not most alcoholics who die from malnutrition don't die necessarily from their poor diets, but
rather because their long term alcoholism has damaged and destroyed their organs and certain systems such as their
digestive system" Miss Thomas concluded.
Treatment for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
"Well done class" Miss Thomas stated. "For the next day or two, we will focus on different treatment options for
alcohol abuse and alcoholism. So make sure you do some research tonight on the Internet so that you are as well
prepared as you were yesterday and today when we discussed alcohol related deaths."