Understanding Alcohol Poisoning
Who is At Risk of Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol poisoning is caused by drinking large quantities of alcohol in a short space of time. This makes binge drinking (usually defined as five drinks for a man in one sitting and four for a woman) especially dangerous.
Alcohol poisoning is a major problem in America. Around 2,000 Americans a year, or 6 per day, die from alcohol poisoning.
BACs highlighted in italics are illegal limits in most American states.
Number of Drinks
How Does Alcohol Poisoning Occur
- As the level of BAC rises, the dangerous impact that alcohol has on the body systems it encounters rises too.
- The level of impairment increases with each drink. Impairment generally begins with feelings of euphoria and warmth.
- Slowly but surely, consumption leads to lower inhibitions and an impact on mood. Speech becomes slurred, and vision, reaction time, decision making, hearing, and balance all become increasingly impaired.
- Eventually, all motor functions are so impaired that the individual is essentially incapable of functioning properly.
- At some point in this process, the body will no longer be able to handle the alcohol and will begin to purge itself. The individual will start to feel nauseous, and will eventually begin vomiting.
- The next stage of alcohol poisoning is generally when the person blacks out. This happens when the person loses all control, and will generally not remember anything that happened the next day.
- There reaches a point when the body cannot handle the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. In most instances, the person will lose consciousness completely.
- However, their body is still processing the alcohol, so they may continue to vomit even while unconscious. If a person vomits while unconscious it may fill up and block their air passages. If they are alone, they could choke and die.
- If a person consumes so much alcohol that their body is unable to process it, their system may shut down. They may fall into a coma, experience permanent brain damage, and potentially die of numerous conditions, most notably cardiac arrest and dehydration.
Signs of Alcohol Poisoning
- Confusion, incoherence, and stupor
- Unconsciousness or coma
- Vomiting, that often continues even if the person is unconscious
- Erratic or drastically slowed breathing
- Low body temperature
- Pale or blue-tinged skin color
Treatment for Alcohol Poisoning
- Ensure that the person stays on their side if they are lying down, to reduce the risk of death from choking on vomit
- Monitor their breathing and try to keep them conscious if possible
- Never leave the individual alone or unattended
Alcohol Poisoning Prevention
- Drink in moderation, if you have to drink at all.
- Drink slowly
- Never drink on an empty stomach
- Drink sufficient amounts of water in between alcoholic drinks
- Educate yourself, your family, and friends about the dangers of alcohol poisoning