What Is Alcohol Poisoning?
What's In This Article?
A serious condition, which is sometimes deadly, alcohol poisoning results from drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short timeframe. When you drink too much too fast, it can affect your heart rate, body temperature, breathing, and gag reflex.
All of this could potentially lead to coma and even to death. When adults or children intentionally or accidentally consume household products that contain alcohol, alcohol poisoning can result.
Alcohol poisoning requires immediate medical attention, so if you suspect someone is suffering from this problem, call 911 for help.
Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning
There are several symptoms or signs that accompany alcohol poisoning:
- Irregular breathing – with more than 10-second gaps between breaths
- Hypothermia – low body temperature
- Passing out with the inability to be awakened
- Slowed breathing – fewer than eight breaths per minute
- Pale skin or blue-tinged skin
Seeking Medical Care
If you have a few of these symptoms and not all of them, you should seek medical care. Anyone who is unconscious and cannot be awakened because of alcohol poisoning is at risk of dying. Alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency.
Even if you don’t see the regular symptoms or signs, you should still seek medical care as soon as possible. Here is what you should do in such situations:
- Call 911 – Don’t assume that alcohol poisoning will be slept off.
- Be ready to provide detailed information – The providers will need to know what kind of alcohol was consumed, the amount and when.
- Don’t leave the person who is unconscious alone – Since alcohol poisoning affects the gag reflex, someone who has alcohol poisoning can choke on their own vomit then asphyxiate.
- Help someone who is vomiting – Keep the individual sitting upright, but if they must lie down be sure to tilt their head to the side, so they won’t choke. Try to keep them awake and avoid unconsciousness.
Don’t hesitate seeking help. While it might be difficult to determine if someone is drunk enough to need medical help, it is better to be safe than sorry. You might worry about the consequences for your loved one or yourself, but not getting the help that is needed could lead to death.
Causes of Alcohol Poisoning
There are several ways someone could suffer from alcohol poisoning. Ethyl alcohol, which is alcohol in the form of ethanol, is found in many products, including some medications, household products, mouthwash, alcoholic beverages, and cooking extracts.
Poisoning from ethyl alcohol usually is caused by drinking too many alcoholic beverages in a short time span. Isopropyl alcohol, which is found in cleaning products, rubbing alcohol, and lotions, and ethylene glycol, also called methanol, which is found in solvents, paints, and antifreeze can cause different kinds of toxic poisoning that require immediate emergency care.
One of the leading causes of alcohol poisoning is binge drinking. Binge drinking is a pattern of heavy drinking in which a female consumes at least four drinks in a two-hour timeframe or a male consumes at least five drinks in a two-hour timeframe.
Alcohol binges might occur over several hours, or they might last for several days. Even after you have stopped drinking or become unconscious, your stomach and intestines will continue to release alcohol into your bloodstream, causing the amount of alcohol in your body and your blood alcohol content to continually increase.
How Much Alcohol is Too Much?
Alcohol poisoning is caused by consuming too much alcohol. You might be wondering what is considered too much. The more you drink, especially in a short timeframe, the greater your chances of alcohol poisoning.
Food might take hours to digest, but your body absorbs alcohol rather quickly, much more quickly than other nutrients. It takes longer for your body to get rid of the alcohol that it has taken in. Most alcohol is processed in your liver, so the more you drink, the higher the risk of suffering from alcohol poisoning.
What is a drink? A drink can vary. One drink is defined as:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 8 to 9 ounces of malt liquor
- 5 ounces of wine
- 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor
- Mixed drinks might have more than one serving of alcohol and could take even longer for your liver to process.
There are several factors that play a role in alcohol poisoning, such as weight and size, overall health, percentage of alcohol content in drinks, if you have recently eaten, if you are also taking drugs – including prescription medication, the amount of alcohol consumption, the rate of alcohol consumption, and your tolerance levels.
There are several complications that might result from alcohol poisoning, such as brain damage, severe dehydration, choking, stopping breathing, seizures, hypothermia, irregular heartbeat, and even death. If you suspect alcohol poisoning, call 911 right away.