Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is when there’s too much alcohol in your blood, and it causes parts of your brain to shut down. It’s also called alcohol overdose. Alcohol is a depressant. That means it can affect your brain and nervous system to slow your breathing, your heart rate, and other essential tasks that your body does.

Some people enjoy having a beer, wine, or liquor to celebrate or relax. In moderation, alcohol can be OK. However, after too much alcohol, you know you may get a hangover. But if you don’t know when to quit, you could be putting yourself in a life-threatening situation. When a person’s blood-alcohol level rises, so does the risk of alcohol poisoning.

Your liver usually does an excellent job of keeping alcohol’s toxins from getting into your bloodstream. But if you drink a lot in a short time, your liver may not be able to keep up.

Alcohol Poisoning is potentially fatal
Acute Alcohol Intoxication is potentially fatal

Alcohol poisoning can lead to brain damage or death. So if you’re with someone who might have drunk too much, call for emergency medical help right away.  

Testing If Someone Has Alcohol In Their System

There are two main ways to check someone’s blood-alcohol content:

  • Breathalyzer: As you drink, the alcohol goes through your bloodstream to your lungs. There, it evaporates into the lungs, and you breathe it out. As you blow into the breathalyzer, it can estimate your BAC by how much alcohol detects in your breath.
  • Blood test: A lab technician draws a small amount of blood with a needle. The technician then analyzes for the BAC. The blood test is most accurate within six to 12 hours after the last drink you consume.

Alcohol Poisoning Signs and Symptoms

First, there are two kinds of client symptoms.

Serious Symptoms Of Alcohol Poisoning

  • Severe Confusion
  • Trouble Staying Awake
  • Throwing up
  • Seizures
  • Slow Breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute)
  • Long pauses between breaths (10 seconds or more)
  • Very Slow Heartbeat
  • Low Body Temperature
  • Bluish or Pale Skin
  • Slow Responses (such as gag reflex)

Mild Symptoms Of alcohol poisoning

  • Smelling like alcohol
  • Confusion or Slurred Speech
  • Poor Coordination or Stumbling
  • Damp or Clammy Skin

Alcohol Poisoning Complications

In severe cases, the following complications can occur:

  • Choking on your vomit
  • Trouble Breathing because of vomit in your lungs
  • Severe Dehydration
  • Hypothermia
  • Brain Damage
  • Seizures
  • Coma
  • Heart Attack
  • Death

Acute Alcohol Intoxication

Alcoholic drinks contain a form of alcohol known as ethyl alcohol or ethanol. That’s what causes alcohol poisoning. Other kinds that you might have around the house, like isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol) and methanol (wood alcohol), are toxic in a different way.

Binge-drinking is a major cause of alcohol poisoning. For a male, binge-drinking is when you have five or more drinks in less than 2 hours. For a woman, it’s four drinks in that same amount of time. “Extreme” binge-drinking is double those amounts.

It doesn’t take a lot of alcohol in the blood to cause problems:

  • Between 0.0 and 0.05%: This level is considered a mild impairment. Symptoms typically include some difficulty speaking and remembering things. The person may seem clumsy, and they may begin to feel a little sleepy.
  • Between 0.06 and 0.15%: The person has reached increased impairment. The effects of mild impairment get worse. A significant impact on driving skills begins to show up.
  • Between 0.16 and 0.30%: The effects of increased impairment get worse. Judgment and decision-making skills become very impaired. The person may suffer from blackouts, and vomiting is common.
  • Between 0.31 and 0.45%: The situation is now life-threatening. The person has a significant risk of dying from the depressant effect causing vital life functions to slow too much.

Risk Factors

Men and middle-aged adults have the highest odds of getting alcohol poisoning. This is because men tend to drink more than women. And middle-aged people are more likely than younger ones to take prescription drugs, making them more likely to get alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol poisoning can also depend on things like:

  • Your size or weight
  • Overall health
  • Your alcohol tolerance
  • How recently you ate food?
  • Whether you’re taking drugs
  • How much and how fast you drink?
  • How much alcohol is in your drink?

Emergency Action

If you think someone you’re with has alcohol poisoning, take these steps:

  • Call 911 right away.
  • Don’t leave the person alone.
  • Try to keep them awake and sitting upright
  • Have them sip water if they’re sharp
  • Cover them with a warm blanket
  • If they’re passed out, get them onto their side to keep them from choking on vomit
  • Tell the paramedics about their symptoms and how much they drank

Don’t do these things. They may do more harm than good:

  • Giving the person a cold shower, which can lower their body temperature
  • Giving them food, which can cause vomiting or choking
  • Trying to have them “walk it off,” could lead to a fall
  • Trying to make them throw up, as this can cause choking

Complications

Severe complications can result from alcohol poisoning, including:

  • Choking: Alcohol may cause vomiting. Because it depresses your gag reflex, this increases the risk of choking on vomit if you’ve passed out.
  • Stopping breathing: Accidentally inhaling vomit into your lungs can lead to a dangerous or fatal interruption of breathing (asphyxiation).
  • Severe dehydration: Vomiting can result in severe dehydration, leading to dangerously low blood pressure and fast heart rate.
  • Seizures: Your blood sugar level may drop low enough to cause seizures.
  • Hypothermia: Your body temperature may drop so low that it leads to cardiac arrest.
  • Irregular heartbeat: Alcohol poisoning can cause the heart to beat irregularly or even stop.
  • Brain damage: Heavy drinking may cause irreversible brain damage.
  • Death: Any of the issues above can lead to death.

Alcohol Poisoning Diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose alcohol poisoning based on your symptoms. They’ll also order blood and urine tests to check your alcohol levels.

Alcohol Poisoning Prevention

If you’re going to drink alcohol, keep these tips in mind to avoid alcohol poisoning:

  • Drink in moderation. It’s best for men to have no more than two drinks a day and for women to have only one.
  • Alternate alcoholic beverages with nonalcoholic ones, ideally water.
  • Do not drink on an empty stomach.
  • Don’t drink while you’re taking prescription medications or other drugs.
  • Don’t play drinking games or use funnels or beer bongs.

Recovery From Alcohol Poisoning

During recovery from alcohol poisoning, the individual may experience:

  • Headache
  • Stomach Cramps
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Tremors

Therefore, it is essential to keep hydrated and avoid drinking any alcohol.

Alcohol Poisoning Treatment

If you’ve drunk dangerous amounts of alcohol, doctors may “pump” your stomach. This keeps any leftover alcohol from getting into your bloodstream.

At the hospital, they may also:

  • Give you fluids through an IV
  • Give you the extra oxygen to help you breathe
  • Flush your stomach of toxins
  • Remove toxins from your blood

We Level Up Treatment Center provides world-class care with round-the-clock medical professionals available to help you cope. We work as an integrated team providing information about alcohol poisoning and other aspects of treatment. Make this your opportunity to reclaim your life. Call today to speak with one of our treatment specialists. Our counselors know what you are going through and will answer any of your questions.

Your call is private and confidential, and there is never any obligation.