James G. Wigmore, Forensic Toxicologist, Speaker, Author

With all the media attention that surrounds tragic fatal alcohol poisonings by students at university and colleges, you may think that there is an epidemic at play.  But a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Vital Signs:  Alcohol Poisoning Deaths – United States, 2010-2012”, a different picture emerges.

The study examined alcohol poisoning deaths that occurred in the US between 2010 and 2012.  On average, 2,221 alcohol poisoning deaths occur annually, for an average yearly rate of 8.8 deaths per 1 million population.  Approximately six persons, on average, die from alcohol poisoning each day in the US.  The study also determined the alcohol poisoning death rate according to age as shown in the following table:

The report also divided the alcohol poisoning deaths according to race or ethnicity as shown in the Table below:

And so, as you can see from the two Tables, the rate of alcohol poisoning is actually lowest in the college age population (which receive the greatest media attention).  But is highest among those ages 45 to 54 years of age and in the American Indian/Alaskan Native population (which received little media attention).


The conclusion of the authors was:

“Death from alcohol poisoning is a serious and preventable public health problem in the United States.  A comprehensive approach to the prevention of excessive drinking that includes evidence-based community and clinical prevention strategies is needed to decrease alcohol poisoning deaths and other harms attributable to excessive alcohol use.”


Kanny, D., Brewer, R.D., Misnick J.B., Paulozzi, L.J., Miami, T.S., and Lu, H., “Vital Signs:  Alcohol Poisoning Deaths – United States 2010-2012”, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report,63:  January 6, 2015.

In Memoriam Ken Okamura (1944 – 2014)

It is with sad regret that I note the passing of a dear colleague of mine of the Alcohol Test Committee – Ken Okamura.  Ken was a graduate of the University of Alberta where he obtained his B.SC and his Masters of Pharmacology degrees.   He worked as a forensic alcohol expert at the RCMP labs in Regina and Edmonton.  He was a pioneer in breath alcohol testing in the western provinces.  I met Ken when I joined the Alcohol Test Committee and found him to serve with quiet integrity and scientific dedication.  He was pre-deceased by his wife of many years- Evelyn Okamura, and together they had 3 wonderful children and 6 delightful grandchildren.

(Reference – Edmonton Journal)