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What Does it Mean to “Drink Yourself to Death”?

A phrase you often hear in relation to someone with a severe alcohol addiction is that “he is drinking himself to death.” It’s a curious phrase, especially since people hardly ever say that someone is smoking himself to death, even though tobacco kills far more people every year than alcohol. What does it mean to say someone is drinking himself to death?

There are a number of ways alcohol can kill you and some take longer than others. Binge drinking can cause alcohol poisoning, which slows breathing and heart rate to dangerous levels, as well as lowering blood pressure and body temperature. Basically, if your blood alcohol content gets high enough fast enough, you stop breathing and die. You can also pass out and choke on your own vomit.

While about 1000 people die every year from alcohol poisoning–and these are typically middle-aged people, and not the college students that tend to make headlines–closer to 10,000 people die each year in alcohol-related car wrecks. Some of these are likely intentional, as about a third of suicides involve alcohol.

Alcohol also doesn’t get along well with other drugs. Taken with opioids or benzodiazepines, it amplifies the depressant effect, making a fatal overdose much more likely. Taken with stimulants such as cocaine or meth it tends to put even more strain on the heart, possibly leading to arrhythmia or heart attack.

On a longer scale, about 20,000 people die each year of liver disease. Liver disease can become a problem earlier than many people realize, especially for women. It’s not uncommon for a woman of 40 to develop liver problems from heavy drinking. Prolonged heavy drinking also damages your cardiovascular health. It can lead to high blood pressure, arrhythmia, cardiomyopathy, stroke, and heart failure.

There is no shortage of ways one can drink himself to death, but the phrase also implies something beyond physiological damage. It usually implies giving up. If someone is an alcoholic but still does his job pretty well and still tries to take care of his family, people don’t typically say he’s drinking himself to death, although it may literally be true. The phrase applies more to someone who has suffered a lot because of his addiction but no longer has any hope of recovering. He’s resigned to drinking until he dies.

That attitude is tragic and unnecessary. Although recovery may be very difficult, there is never a point when it becomes impossible, even for people who have failed many times before. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at to learn more.