People often ask us about the treatment for alcohol poisoning. We’ll talk about that in a minute, but first let’s discuss the symptoms of alcohol poisoning.
Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
If a person has been drinking and shows any of these signs of alcohol poisoning, they need to get medical attention right away. They do not have to show all of these symptoms of alcohol poisoning; even one symptom can mean they need medical attention. Alcohol poisoning can cause brain damage or can be fatal without treatment. Call 911 or go to your local emergency room for assistance.
Do not leave a person with symptoms of alcohol poisoning alone while you wait for medical help to arrive. Try to keep them sitting up. If they must lie down, keep their head turned to the side so they will not choke if they vomit. Try to keep them awake.
It should be noted that a person can begin to show signs of alcohol poisoning up to 90 minutes after they have stopped drinking. That’s because it can take that long for the alcohol in their stomach to be absorbed into their blood stream.
Make sure to tell medical personnel if the person may have ingested other drugs as well as alcohol, as this may affect treatment.
Treatment for alcohol poisoning primarily involves supportive care, although it depends on the type of alcohol ingested.
Alcohol poisoning is most often caused by ethyl alcohol (ethanol), which is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. Binge drinking is the most common cause of alcohol poisoning. Ethanol is also found in some common household products, however, such as mouthwash, perfumes, aftershaves, and medications.
Alcohol poisoning can also be caused by ingesting isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) or methyl alcohol (methanol). Isopropanol is found in lotions, some hand-sanitizer gels, rubbing alcohol, and antifreeze. Methanol is found in antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, solvents, paints, and varnishes.
Supportive treatment for alcohol poisoning is given for all types of alcohol ingestion, while the body rids itself of the alcohol.
Supportive care involves careful monitoring to make sure the person is breathing okay. Alcohol is a stomach irritant and that is why excessive consumption of alcohol tends to cause vomiting. Alcohol also impairs the gag reflex, so an unconscious person can choke on their vomit. They can also inhale vomit into their lungs, which can be fatal. Oxygen therapy may also be given.
In addition, supportive treatment for alcohol poisoning usually includes IV fluids. This is to prevent or treat dehydration that may result from vomiting, and it also replaces electrolytes.
In some cases, a person’s stomach may be pumped to remove any alcohol left in the stomach. However, by the time alcohol poisoning occurs, there is often little or no alcohol left in the stomach; it has already all entered the blood stream.
In the case of ingestion of methanol, kidney dialysis is often needed. This helps to eliminate the alcohol from the blood stream faster. Dialysis may be needed in the case of isopropanol ingestion, was well.
If the person survives the first 24 hours, their prognosis is considered good.
We cannot stress enough that if a person who has ingested alcohol shows any of the above symptoms of alcohol poisoning, they need to get medical care immediately. Remember, alcohol poisoning can be deadly without prompt treatment.