What is Alcohol Poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning most often occurs as a result of the rapid intake of alcohol, also known as binge drinking. This high amount of alcohol can lead to seizures, choking, an irregular heart beat and even death. Deaths caused by alcohol poisoning are a sad reality, but perhaps even sadder is the fact that these deaths are entirely preventable. Alcohol rehab at a qualified alcohol rehabilitation center is often beneficial to those suffering from alcohol addiction.
Choking is one common cause of death among those with alcohol poisoning. The nerves that control breathing and a person’s gag reflex can be affected by alcohol. Too much alcohol will halt these bodily functions altogether, which most often leads to choking and possibly death if vomiting occurs. Vomiting often occurs with excessive alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol intake is common among those suffering from alcoholism. Those desiring to obtain freedom from this powerful drug should seek treatment for alcoholism at a drug and alcohol rehab center.
It is especially dangerous for someone to pass out while under the influence. The blood alcohol content (BAC) in the body can still rise if someone is asleep or passed out. If someone you know is unconscious or asleep after consuming large amounts of alcohol, attempt to resuscitate them and do not leave them alone.
5 Steps to Take if Someone You Know Has Alcohol Poisoning
- Call 911 or a local poison control center if you think someone you know has alcohol poisoning.
- Stay with the person. Never leave a severely intoxicated person alone.
- Turn the person onto their side to prevent choking if vomiting occurs.
- Monitor breathing levels. If you know CPR, be prepared to use this skill in case of an emergency.
- Continually try to revive the person if they are passed out.
Signs of Alcohol Poisoning
This form of poisoning not only occurs as a result of drinking popular alcoholic beverages, it can also occur when someone consumes ethyl alcohol, methyl alcohol or isopropyl alcohol.
Alcohol poisoning can occur quickly. It is absorbed rapidly into the bloodstream—especially if the person hasn’t had much to eat—and it take a long time to be metabolized. That means the more a person drinks, the more likely the person will be at risk for alcohol poisoning.
Typically, one drink is considered to be 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, and 8 or 9 ounces of malt liquor. Binge drinking, a common cause of alcohol poisoning, is generally considered to be 5 or more drinks within the space of two hours for men, and at least four drinks in that same period of time for women. Generally, women may experience alcohol poisoning after consuming fewer drinks than men because on average women weigh less and alcohol affects them more quickly. Other factors that can determine how quickly alcohol poisoning can occur include a person’s general health, how well they tolerate alcohol, and whether they have been taking drugs.
Common signs someone you know may have alcohol poisoning include:
- Slow reflexes
- Inability to communicate effectively
- Slurring in speech
- Rapid pulse
- Feeling sick, vomiting
- Moist, clammy skin
- Inability to walk
- Pale, blue colored skin
What are the Effects of Alcohol Poisoning?
The effects of alcohol poisoning can be devastating, especially if the drinker becomes unconscious. In fact, numerous deaths have occurred as a result of an unconscious person choking on their own vomit or breathing in vomit. Possible effects of alcohol poisoning include:
- Irregular heart beat
- Choking (from vomiting)
- Decrease in body temperature (hypothermia)
- Brain damage
- Strange breathing patterns
- Inhalation of vomit causing a halt in breathing patterns (asphyxiation)
Because alcohol poisoning is extremely dangerous, you must take care if you are helping someone who has become severely intoxicated. Stay calm and get your friend to lie down on his side, so there’s less chance the person will choke on vomit. Do not give any food or drink—coffee won’t sober anyone up at this point. Stay with him and don’t let him move around—he may feel confused and moving around could cause an injury.
If your friend is losing, or has lost, consciousness, check his skin to see if it is clammy or tinged with blue. Observe his breathing—if it’s very slow or there are prolonged gaps between inhales those are signs of possible respiratory distress. If he won’t wake up when you try to rouse him, or he starts to have seizures, those are also warning signs that alcohol poisoning is in the advanced stages. For any of these symptoms, calling 911 immediately will get your friend the medical attention that is crucial to survive alcohol poisoning. If you know CPR, you may be asked to perform it until an ambulance has arrived. Without medical intervention, there is a higher risk that alcohol poisoning can lead to death.
Alcohol poisoning may be harmful, but the consequences of alcoholism can be even more devastating. If you or a loved one suffers from alcohol addiction, seek alcoholic treatment at a drug and alcohol rehab center today.