How do you die from alcoholism

How Do You Die From Alcoholism?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately 6 Americans die from alcohol-related causes every day. Of these deaths, 76% are aged 35 to 64 – with 3 out of 4 being men. 

With these numbers, there is no denying that long-term alcoholism is fatal. As such, the best way to cut your risks is to refrain from drinking. Yes, it’s as easy as stopping while you are still able to do so. Once you reach the point of no return, death will eventually come knocking at your door. 

If the thought of eventual death does not deter you from drinking, then here’s a more graphic explanation of the ways you can die because of alcoholism:

Liver Disease

how alcohol affects liver - alcohol liver disease-ALD

Of all the organs of the body, the liver is affected by drinking the most. This is because the liver is the primary place of alcohol metabolism. 

Remember that the liver was not made to metabolize alcohol. As such, it can only process 1 ounce of alcohol per hour. This means that if you drink more than the standard amount, the alcohol will remain in your system – and this will reflect on your blood alcohol concentration.

Should this continue, you are at risk of developing a fatty liver, a liver condition that results from acute ingestion. This is reversible and may NOT lead to worse diseases if drinking is stopped or kept at a minimum. 

But should you continue drinking, fatty liver may progress to alcoholic hepatitis, where there is inflammation of the liver. Such may lead to liver failure and eventual death if alcohol abstinence is not observed. 

As if hepatitis is not bad enough, alcoholics stand the chance of developing an advanced form of liver disease: alcoholic cirrhosis. In this irreversible condition, normal liver tissue is replaced with stiff, swollen, and diseased material. The abnormal tissue greatly hampers liver function, so the body is unable to filter blood effectively anymore.  

Symptoms of alcohol-related liver disease include yellowing (jaundice) and fluid buildup in the abdomen (ascites), to name a few. 

With that being said, alcohol cirrhosis is a fatal disease. According to the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 49.5% of the 42,443 cirrhosis deaths in 2015 were alcohol-related. 


Pancreatitis pertains to the inflammation of the pancreas. The organ, which is located behind the stomach, is responsible for the release of necessary digestive enzymes. It also releases insulin and glucagon, hormones that help the body convert food into energy. With that being said, if the pancreas is sick, it can’t perform these vital functions. 

Pancreatitis can be caused by medications, autoimmune disorders, and of course, alcoholism. According to the National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the risk of developing pancreatitis can be increased with as little as two standard drinks per day. 

How alcohol affects the pancreas is similar to the way it destroys the liver. When the alcohol is metabolized, it releases free radicals and other harmful substances that damage the pancreatic cells. 

As per the MSD Manuals, as much as 30% of all acute pancreatitis cases result from alcohol use. Chronic pancreatitis, on the other hand, can affect 50 in 100,000 people – most of which are alcoholics. Sadly, the latter is incurable, and can lead to complications such as pancreatic cancer and diabetes. With that being said, pancreatitis bears a death rate of 3.6 out of 1000. 

Alcohol Cardiomyopathy and Myocarditis

how alcohol affects your heart

While a little amount of alcohol is beneficial to the heart, too much drinking can lead to alcohol cardiomyopathy. In this condition, the heart muscles are adversely affected by alcohol and its metabolites. The left and right heart ventricles increase in size, which makes it harder for the heart to pump and deliver the blood throughout the body.

Alcoholism may also lead to myocarditis, which is the inflammation of the heart muscle. Similar to myopathy, this can affect the heart’s ability to deliver blood throughout the body. Likewise, myocarditis can affect the heart’s electrical system, which may lead to arrhythmia or an irregular heart rate.

Both diseases have poor prognosis, and this means there is little chance for recovery. 


A usual drink can increase your blood pressure for 2 hours. This can resolve quickly, but if you continue to drink too much, you may develop sustained hypertension, where the blood pressure is constantly above 120/80.

High blood pressure may be a common complaint, but it is responsible for 7.6 million deaths per annum worldwide, as per a study published in the Journal of Hypertension

Hypertension can have adverse effects on the heart since it forces the organ to pump blood harder. And when it keeps working harder longer than it should be, fatal complications such as heart attack and stroke may develop. 

Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus

Type 2 diabetes, also known as adult-onset diabetes, is a chronic condition. It affects the body’s ability to metabolize sugar, which is the primary fuel source of the body. 

Alcoholism can lead to diabetes in several ways. For one, it can increase one’s weight – and this is a risk factor in developing insulin resistance.

As has been mentioned, alcohol can also affect the pancreas – the organ in charge of producing necessary hormones such as insulin. In the case of pancreatitis, little, if no insulin is produced by the body so it can no longer utilize sugar as energy. Most are left in the bloodstream, raising blood sugar levels – and this happens to be the hallmark symptom of diabetes. 

Diabetes mellitus brings about complications that can be fatal in the long run. They include heart disease, nerve damage, and kidney injury, to name a few. According to the American Diabetes Association, the metabolic disorder was touted as the cause behind 83,000 deaths in 2017 – making diabetes the second leading cause of death that year. 


In as early as the 20th century, alcohol use has already been implicated in the development of certain cancers. According to studies, alcoholism can increase one’s risk of developing cancers of the mouth, oropharynx, larynx, esophagus, pancreas, liver, and prostate. It can also lead to colorectal malignancy, which is the second most common cause of cancer death in the world.

Alcoholism – if left untreated – is fatal in the long run. If you want to break free from this addiction, you must quit today – before things get too late. 

Latest posts by Raychel Ria Agramon, BSN, RN, MPM (see all)

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