In October 2011, the coroner who conducted Amy Winehouse’s autopsy declared that the Grammy-winning singer “died by misadventure.” Translation: Amy died of accidental alcohol poisoning.
Amy famously battled an addiction to drugs and alcohol, and had returned to rehab only months before her death. She gave up drugs after receiving treatment in 2008 but had trouble staying away from alcohol—in fact, Amy had just resumed drinking a few days before her death after 3 weeks of abstinence from it. Sadly, she drank a lethal amount of alcohol—nearly five times the British drunk-driving limit.
What Is Alcohol Poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning is when a person has extremely high levels of toxic alcohol in his or her system. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the liver converts toxic alcohol—from beer, wine, or hard liquor—to nontoxic energy at a rate of approximately one drink per hour, depending on factors like gender, size, age, medical conditions (e.g., heart disease), and whether other drugs were used in addition to alcohol.
Rapid consumption of a lot of alcohol can overload the liver’s ability to keep up, causing the blood alcohol concentration to rise rapidly. High blood alcohol concentration can lead to slurred speech and lack of muscle coordination. It also “numbs” the part of the brain that controls the heart and lungs, which can lead to coma or death.
How Many People Die From Accidental Alcohol Poisoning?
It’s actually pretty rare to die from alcohol poisoning alone—about one in a million people. What’s more common is for people to die from combining alcohol and other drugs, which can lead to dangerous medical issues, suicide or self-injury, accidental drowning, or car accidents.
Usually when we say someone is “one in a million,” it means that they’re special and talented in a way most people dream of. Amy Winehouse was certainly special and talented for writing and performing her music. Unfortunately, at age 27, Amy Winehouse was also an unlucky “one in a million.” Rest in peace, Amy.