Alcohol-related liver death rising among Millennials

Important to know your limits because consequences can be fatal

By Cleveland Clinic News Service

Celebrating a special occasion with an alcoholic beverage is common -- but it’s important to know your limits. 

Recent research shows deaths from alcohol-related liver disease have increased in the United States, particularly in young adults. 

Cleveland Clinic’s Dr. Jamile Wakim-Fleming was not involved in the research but said young people need to know when to draw the line because the consequences of too much alcohol can be fatal. 

“Overall there is a burden of disease that is worsened when you increase the amount of alcohol but the death occurs in the younger people because they push the limit and they drink more at one setting,” she said.

The study shows people between the ages of 25-34 have experienced the greatest increase in death from liver cirrhosis. 

Wakim-Fleming said that even young people can develop cirrhosis if they continue to drink into their 30s and 40s because liver damage is cumulative. And too much alcohol at a young age can impact more than just a person’s liver health.

She said that alcohol abuse impacts relationships, a person’s ability to function at work or school, and puts others around them at risk if they get behind the wheel of a car.

But how much is too much?

Wakim-Fleming said recent studies suggest that no level of alcohol is really safe.

She reminds us that alcohol affects everybody differently.

“Our genetics are different and we respond to drinking differently, so, we cannot really compare,” she said. “So I say, know your body, know yourself, listen to others; see how your behavior is -- if you have hangovers the next day or you have problems or you’re becoming yellow -- that is a sign you’ve exceeded; your body’s giving you a sign. Respect those signs and hold off.” 

Wakim-Fleming said if a young adult who has been drinking too much stops now, while they are still young, they may be able to reverse the alcohol’s effect on the body. 

However, she said that there is a point where the damage done to the liver and the brain is irreversible.

Cleveland Clinic 2019