Acute alcoholism cases nearly double in Tokyo

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A customer orders a drink in a restaurant in Minato Ward, Tokyo, on Oct. 28.

For the first time this year, over 1,000 people were taken to the hospital for acute alcoholism in a single month in Tokyo.

Acute alcoholism is alcohol poisoning from drinking a large quantity of alcohol in a short period of time, leading blood alcohol levels to rise rapidly and affect the brain. Nausea and memory loss are common symptoms, but some people may also experience choking on their vomit or paralysis spreading through their brain, leading to death.

Many people are believed to have become sick in October apparently after drinking heavily for the first time in a while after the latest novel coronavirus-related state of emergency ended.

Caution is needed this month since it is the time when many year-end parties are held and the number of people transported to hospitals usually increases.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Many outdoor seating areas are occupied beside restaurants in Shibuya Ward, Tokyo, on Oct. 26.

The Tokyo Fire Department said in a preliminary report that 1,042 people were taken to the hospital that month for acute alcoholism, nearly double the 535 in September. The number was 488 in August.

From January through October, 6,515 people were taken to the hospital for acute alcoholism, with the number in the 400s to 700s through September.

In Yokohama, the number of people transported to the hospital for the same reason jumped to 56 in October from 21 in September, the Yokohama City Fire Bureau said. The Saitama Fire Department also reported the number increased to 27 in October from 16 in September.

The numbers indicated that it is possible there were many acute alcoholism cases in November as well.

In November, a woman in her 20s was taken to a hospital in Saitama possibly because of acute alcoholism after becoming unable to move in a toilet in a train station.

In the same month in Hyogo Prefecture, a 20-year-old female part-time worker passed out on her way home from drinking at a restaurant with a friend. The woman reportedly drank four highballs and lemon sour cocktails, which she said was a “normal amount of alcohol” for her. But it was the first time in seven months for her to drink outside her home.

Both of the cases were not life-threatening.

Ryota Osawa, the 37-year-old director of Musashikosugi Cocoromi Clinic in Kawasaki and an expert on acute alcoholism, said people who tend to get drunk easily are at greater risk of quickly becoming intoxicated after not drinking alcohol for a lengthy period as the functions of alcohol-metabolizing enzymes weaken.

“It is advisable to take measures such as alternating a sip of water with a sip of alcohol,” Osawa said.