Health Department Reminds New Yorkers to Stay Safe on New Year’s Eve

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Emergency room visits for alcohol-related injuries, illness soar on New Year’s Day each year 

As New Year’s Eve celebrations in the City get underway, the Health Department reminds New Yorkers to stay safe and be aware of the potential health risks of excessive drinking. Alcohol-related emergency department visits more than double on New Year’s Day compared to what is typically observed, according to an analysis by the New York City Health Department. Peak hours of arrival at the emergency department for alcohol-related visits are between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m.  This pattern is consistent across several years of data.

“As New Yorkers head out this weekend for New Year’s Eve, remember that alcohol can impair your judgment and coordination and that excessive drinking is dangerous,” said New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Farley. “During the early hours of New Year’s Day, our hospitals see a great number of New Yorkers who suffer injuries or illnesses related to alcohol, more than any other day of the year. By taking some simple precautions like limiting your alcohol intake and planning a ride home, you can keep yourself and others safe.”

While alcohol-related emergency department visits peak in the early hours of New Year’s Day excessive drinking impacts New Yorkers year-round, particularly on weekends. Each year, alcohol kills an estimated 1,500 New Yorkers and in 2008 nearly half – 712 – of the deaths were due to alcohol-related injury or violence. Alcohol is associated with approximately 46% of homicides, 26% of deaths from accidents and poisoning, and 28% of motor vehicle-related deaths in New York City each year.

Excessive drinking is characterized by binge drinking – defined as five drinks for a man and four for a woman on one occasion – or heavy regular drinking. However, judgment, coordination, and reaction time are impaired with lower amounts of consumption. Limiting yourself to two alcoholic drinks on an occasion can greatly reduce the risk of injury or illness.

To further help keep you safe this New Year’s Eve, the Health Department and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism offer the following tips:

  • Have “drink spacers” – make every other drink a non-alcoholic one, such as water. Drink seltzer with lime or lemon or water with a splash of juice for color.
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Having food in your stomach allows your system to absorb alcohol more slowly.
  • Stop drinking while you’re still thinking. Excessive drinking can put you or someone else at risk for injury or violence and the consequences can be fatal.

For information about unhealthy drinking or treatment for alcohol dependence, call 311 or 800-LifeNet (800-543-3638).

*NOTE Pertaining to Figure Above: The Health Department currently tallies emergency department visits from 49 NYC hospitals accounting for 95% of annual emergency department visits in NYC. Alcohol-related emergency department visits are defined as any visit with a mention of alcohol in the chief complaint. The data do not represent all alcohol-related visits to emergency departments in NYC as data from the other 5% of hospitals is not included and some visits may not be reported as alcohol-related.