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Alcohol poisoning rises among older drinkers

It’s not only teenagers who are drinking themselves into trouble – more and more older people are being brought to hospital with alcohol poisoning.

In 2000, 134 such cases were reported to the emergency ward of Bern’s Insel hospital; by 2007 this had increased to 373, according to a study by the hospital.

In 2000, 1.4 per cent of patients delivered to the Insel hospital had alcohol poisoning; in 2007 it was 3.3 per cent.

“Typically it’s 30- to 40-year-old male alcoholics who, on the night in question, exceed their limits even more than normal,” said study leader Monika Habkern, adding that these patients had often lost their jobs.

The number of 16- to 25-year-olds who turned up in the emergency ward increased from 29 in 2000 to 74 in 2007, but “repeat offenders” – those diagnosed with alcohol poisoning for at least a second time – were mostly older than 25.

A diagnosis of alcohol poisoning was based not only on the level of alcohol in the blood, but also on factors such as inability to walk, aggressiveness or unconsciousness.

Habkern pointed out that symptoms of alcohol poisoning were not closely tied to the level of alcohol in the blood.

“Some patients with two promille alcohol in their blood shoe very few clinical symptoms, whereas a girl who is not used to alcohol could be unconscious with the same amount,” she said.

swissinfo.ch and agencies


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