Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited: September 02 ,
2020 
| 4 Sources


What is Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning, also referred to as acute alcohol poisoning, is a dangerous condition that can lead to death. Alcohol Poisoning occurs when an individual ingests alcohol in excess. Consuming large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time tends to put the body in danger from alcohol poisoning.

Rapid consumption of alcohol floods the body with toxins and poisons at rates too fast for it to process correctly. This situation leads to nausea and vomiting, disorientation, confusion, and possibly coma or death if left untreated.

According to the Center for Disease Control, an average of 6 individuals die per day from alcohol poising (4 men and 2 women). The highest number of deaths occur during the winter months between December and January followed by March through April. The lowest number of deaths occurs during the summer months.

Who is at Risk?

Although anyone can develop alcohol poisoning, some individuals are at a higher risk than others:

Adults that drink too much and too quickly are particularly susceptible to alcohol poisoning because of their slower rate of intoxication due to body mass. In addition, pregnant women do not tolerate alcohol well so it is important for them to avoid drinking entirely.

Children who drink have an even more difficult time processing the toxins in large amounts of alcohol which puts them at a greater risk as well. The best way to prevent alcohol poising in children is by NOT allowing them to consume any type of alcoholic beverage at all. Individuals with certain health conditions should also avoid drinking alcohol.

These include (but are not limited to): problems with the liver, heart, and brain; diabetes; a family history of alcoholism (as well as addiction to many other substances); eating disorders such as bulimia or anorexia nervosa; long-term use of certain medications (including high blood pressure meds and sleeping pills) as well as other medications; and old age.

For individuals who drink casually, binge drink or are struggling with alcoholism, it can be lifesaving to be aware of the symptoms of alcohol poisoning. An unknown fact is that alcohol poisoning can lead to seizures and potentially death.

According to the Center for Disease Control, alcohol poising leads to an average of 6 deaths per day in the United States. Of the 6 deaths, approximately 76% of the individuals are adults between the ages of 35 and 64 years old. It is more common for men to die from alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol poisoning is a serious and manageable condition if caught in a timely manner. Knowing the symptoms can be vital. For additional information on the treatment of alcohol poisoning, please follow the link.

Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms

You should watch for the following alcohol poisoning symptoms in your friends when they have been drinking:Confusion.

  • Cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin.
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia).
  • Repeated, uncontrolled vomiting (try to keep a person who is vomiting sitting up, so they don’t choke; if they must lie down, keep their head turned to the side).
  • Slow breathing (less than 13 times per minute, or no breathing at all for periods of 8 seconds or more).
  • Seizures.
  • Loss of consciousness (if someone who has been drinking falls asleep and you can’t wake them, it may be alcohol poisoning; if you are with someone who is drunk and they fall asleep, you should wake them frequently to make sure they are not unconscious).
  • Alcohol poisoning can cause a person to go into a coma or it can cause death.
signs-of-alcohol-poisoning

Not all signs have to be present to indicate alcohol poisoning – for instance, loss of consciousness without any other signs can still mean a person has alcohol poisoning.

As you can see, it may be difficult to recognize signs of alcohol poisoning in yourself or to get yourself medical attention.

If you are going to drink much alcohol, make sure your friends know the alcohol poisoning symptoms so they can look out for you.

If you notice signs of alcohol poisoning in a person, you need to get them medical help right away. Untreated, alcohol poisoning can result in death. Call 911 or get them to the nearest Emergency Room.

You can also call your local poison control center for advice. Don’t leave a person with possible alcohol poisoning alone until medical help arrives.

Causes of Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms

Your body can eliminate about one serving of alcohol per hour.

  • One serving of alcohol is one 12-ounce can of beer, 
  • one 10-ounce wine cooler, 
  • one 4-ounce glass of wine, 
  • or one 1.5-ounce shot of 80-proof hard alcohol. 

Some mixed drinks have more than one serving of alcohol in them.

If you drink more than one serving of alcohol in an hour, your blood alcohol concentration level will rise, and the higher it gets, the more at risk you are for alcohol poisoning.

Binge drinking is the most common cause of alcohol poisoning - for instance, drinking five beers very quickly in the span of less than one hour.

There are a number of factors that can affect your blood alcohol levels, including how strong the alcohol is that you are drinking, how quickly you consume it, and if you have any food in your stomach when you drink it.

Your blood alcohol concentration can continue to increase even after you are no longer drinking or after you’ve passed out. This is because the alcohol in your stomach will continue to be absorbed.

Therefore you can develop signs of alcohol poisoning even after you’ve stopped drinking.

Effects of Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms.

Treatment of Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms

Alcohol poisoning is primarily treated with supportive care while the body rids itself of the alcohol. A person with alcohol poisoning symptoms is carefully monitored and their airway is maintained so they don’t choke or have trouble breathing. They may also be given oxygen to help them breathe. They are also given IV fluids to prevent dehydration.

If a person survives the first 24 hours, their prognosis is considered good. It should be understood, though, that alcohol poisoning is a very serious condition and can be fatal. Anyone with signs of alcohol poisoning needs medical attention right away.

Consequences of Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms

Alcohol poisoning symptoms can be life threatening. If someone survives the first 24 hours with alcohol poisoning, they will likely make a complete recovery as long as they receive appropriate medical attention to treat their symptoms.

Proper treatment of alcohol poisoning, though, is only one part of making sure you avoid future problems with alcohol abuse and addiction - everyone who abuses alcohol needs regular monitoring and support from trained professionals to help them recover completely. Leaving your problem untreated may put you at risk for other serious conditions like stroke or liver failure in the future.

The sooner you get help, the sooner you can recover and avoid further damage to your body.

Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LPC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More


Related Information

Acute Alcohol Poisoning - Important facts about alcohol poisoning including how to prevent it.

Treatment For Alcohol Poisoning - Detailed information on how alcohol poisoning is treated, and why it is so important to get professional medical help. 

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