CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) - A record number of Americans are drinking themselves to death.
A new federal report indicates alcohol related deaths are up 37 percent from 2002. It kills more people in the U.S. than drugs, like heroin.
And these new numbers do not include deaths from drunk driving. Only related causes like alcohol poisoning or cirrhosis of the liver.
And the dangers of over-drinking, which are often overlooked, can be even more of a problem during the holidays.
According to the CDC, more people were killed by high alcohol consumption last year than from overdoses of heroin and prescription painkillers combined. And two recent surveys from The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post suggest Americans are drinking more.
"I'm not sure there is a disease out there that has killed and can kill as many people as alcohol related deaths,” said Ramsen Kasha.
Kasha is the executive director of the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation's facility in Chicago. He says many people don't fully understand the dangers associated with heavy drinking because it's become an acceptable part of our culture.
"We have lost sight of the fact that alcohol remains one of the most deadly drugs out there when you take the number of deaths per substance in to account,” Kasha said.
And the numbers are sobering: Over 30 thousand deaths last year, up more than 37 percent in just 12 years.
"Whenever you see that dramatic of a jump, it's hard not to be surprised by the sheer number,” Kasha said.
And during the holidays, with all of the parties and increased social opportunities, it can be difficult to avoid the sauce, especially for recovering alcoholics.
Kasha says avoiding temptation begins with knowing how much is too much.
"Knowing what your limitations are ahead of time is the biggest thing. Realizing what a situation is going to be and kind of forecasting if it's going to be something you can take yourself out of,” Kasha said.
Kasha expects the number of alcohol related deaths to climb, which is a frustrating prediction because death by excessive alcohol use is preventable.
"If we start with early prevention and education to understand with it is, and them move through treatment and the steps taken there,” Kasha said.
Philip J. Cook, a Duke University professor who studies alcohol consumption, says that the top 10 percent of American adults consume an average of 74 drinks a week. Moderate use is considered 7 to 14 drinks per week.