When I found out the news of Amy Winehouse’s passing I was pretty sad. I found her to be an amazing talent and listened to her music on many late nights working on my dissertation. Regardless of her amazing talent, Amy was always a train wreck waiting to happen. Even her first hit song was about refusing to go to rehab (I also hear this refrain from clients). Given Amy’s long battle with drug abuse, I was somewhat surprised to hear that no narcotics were found in her body during the autopsy. In fact, the coroner attributed her death to the large amount of alcohol (over .41 BAC or about 12 drinks in one hour(based on her approximate body weight)) in her body. Three empty bottles of vodka were found in her house would support this theory.
We rarely hear of someone drinking themselves to death like this. Many studies often relay the dangers of long term drinking including damage to the liver, brain, kidneys, etc., but rarely do we hear of death by alcohol poisoning (outside of very sad and unfortunate college stories). Alcohol IS rated as the 3rd most dangerous “lifestyle-related” cause of death in the US. The CDC has a scary look at the easy to understand charts of alcohol attributable deaths seen here.
My guess is that Amy never intended to kill herself that night when she drank so much. There are much easier ways to do that than alcohol poisoning. More than likely she was trying to drown her sorrows by drinking and didn’t know when to stop. She literally drank herself to death. Binge drinking can be very dangerous. If not for the possibility of alcohol poisoning then for all the dumb and dangerous things that happen from alcohol….and hangovers.
From my days of teaching alcohol education class to college students I found a helpful website that can help you to better understand how certain drinks (beer vs. mixed drink vs. wine), time frame (1 drink per hour vs 4 per hour), and body size (100 lbs vs 185 lbs) can impact your blood alcohol content. The website may even help you in making better decisions about safe driving habits after a night of drinking. I hope there is something to be learned from Amy’s death. And if you’re hurting and feel like drinking is the only way to feel better I hope you would reach out and ask for help.