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UN Warns Of Rise In Alcohol-Related Deaths

Nearly 4 percent of all deaths worldwide are related to alcohol abuse, according to a new report from the World Health Organization. Annual consumption of pure alcohol was the equivalent of 6.1 liters per person across the world in 2005. The United States consumed 9.4 liters per person -- nearly 70 percent was beer and wine, the rest liquor.

Susan Bower, deputy director of Alcohol and Drug Services for the County of San Diego, said San Diego’s indicators show slight increases since 2006 for the number of people seeking treatment for alcohol abuse. But she said alcohol-related emergency department discharges have risen significantly.

"The rate of alcohol-related emergency department discharges increased by 33 percent from 2006 to 2009," said Bower.

Bower said the data refers to patients who were treated and discharged from emergency rooms in San Diego County, and does not represent all patients who go to the ER.

The main causes of alcohol-related deaths are injuries incurred when drunk, cancer, liver cirrhosis, heart disease and strokes.

"It's a killer and it's not good from a public health point of view,'' Melvin Freeman of South African's Ministry of Health and a contributor to the report, told reporters in Geneva.

Worldwide, over 6 percent of male deaths are related to alcohol, but only 1 percent of deaths in women. Almost one in 10 deaths among young people aged 15 to 29 is from alcohol-related causes — about 320,000 each year — the WHO said.

The global body's first report on the subject in seven years recommended that governments raise alcohol taxes, restrict sales, promote alcoholism prevention and treatment programs, and ban some alcohol advertising.

The Associated Press contributed to the information in this report.

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