What Is Alcohol Poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning is a dangerous medical condition that can be fatal if left untreated. When someone drinks too much alcohol, the body tries to protect itself by slowing down the metabolic processes. If alcohol poisoning is left untreated, it can cause cell damage, organ damage, and even death.
Alcohol poisoning is not the same as alcohol allergy, which is a rare and serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Alcohol poisoning occurs when someone drinks so much that their system can’t process it fast enough. This usually happens when someone drinks too quickly, on an empty stomach, or a lot of alcohol at once.
Early signs of alcohol poisoning include confusion, slurred speech, unresponsiveness, vomiting, impaired coordination, and difficulty breathing. If alcohol poisoning goes untreated for too long, it can lead to seizures, cardiac arrest, coma, and death.
There are more than 2,200 alcohol poisoning deaths in the United States every year.
Why Is Alcohol Poisoning Dangerous?
Potential Causes of Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol poisoning occurs when someone drinks too much alcohol in a short period of time. Alcohol gets into your bloodstream through your stomach and small intestine. Once it’s in your bloodstream, it travels to every part of your body. The amount of time it takes for alcohol to get into your system depends on your body weight, how much food is in your stomach, how often you’ve eaten recently, and your drinking pattern.
Here are some potential causes of alcohol poisoning:
- Drinking on an empty stomach: When alcohol goes straight to the bloodstream without passing through the digestive tract, it can be absorbed by your body more quickly.
- Drinking a large amount of alcohol at once: If you try to drink an excessive amount of alcohol in one sitting, your body will not have time to process it all before becoming intoxicated.
- Drinking too quickly: Drinking a large amount of alcohol over the course of several hours might not lead to alcohol poisoning.
- Consuming alcohol with energy drinks or other beverages that contain caffeine: Caffeine can speed up the process through which your body breaks down alcohol. It can also lead people to feel more alert, which gives them the illusion that they are not drunk. As a result, they may continue to drink alcohol longer than they normally would.
Spotting the Signs of Alcohol Poisoning
- Confusion. This can include confusion about what day it is, what time it is, and general confusion about surroundings, people, and events.
- Unresponsiveness. If someone is passed out and can’t be woken up, they’re at risk of alcohol poisoning. If they are younger than 21 years old and pass out, it’s also possible that they’ve been drinking more than they can handle.
- Vomiting. When your body can’t process too much alcohol, it often tries to get rid of the excess through vomiting. If someone is vomiting and doesn’t seem to be able to stop, they may be suffering from alcohol poisoning.
- Impaired coordination. This can include trouble walking, keeping balance, moving, or even keeping one’s eyes open. It’s common for someone suffering from alcohol poisoning to need help staying upright.
Home Remedies for Dealing with Alcohol Poisoning
What to Do if You Think Someone is Suffering from Alcohol Poisoning
How to prevent alcohol poisoning while drinking?
What is binge drinking?
Binge drinking is defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as consuming five or more drinks in two hours for men and four drinks in two hours for women. Binge drinking is extremely dangerous because it happens so quickly. It’s easy to lose track of how much alcohol you’ve been drinking when you’re in a social setting, taking shots, or playing drinking games, especially if you are drinking several beverages at once.
Binge drinking is the type of alcohol abuse most likely to lead to an alcohol overdose. This is because it raises a person’s blood alcohol level very dramatically. Having a higher blood alcohol concentration is not only associated with alcohol overdoses, but it is also more likely to lead to dangerous consequences like drunk driving.
Binge drinking can be particularly dangerous if you’re consuming alcohol with other drugs. Combining alcohol with other substances—including some over-the-counter medications, energy drinks, and recreational drugs—increases the risk of alcohol poisoning.
What are the other dangers of binge drinking?
Dangers of combining alcohol and other drugs
What are the signs and symptoms of high blood alcohol concentration?
- Nausea, vomiting, and abdominal pain
- Breathing difficulties and changes in heart rate
- Seizures and loss of consciousness
- Low body temperature
How do hospitals treat alcohol poisoning?
How do I know if I have an alcohol problem?
- How often do you drink?
- How much do you drink?
- What types of situations lead you to drink?
- Are you experiencing negative consequences as a result of your drinking?
What are the long-term effects of alcohol poisoning?
What are the short-term effects of alcohol abuse?
- Slurred speech
- Upset stomach
- Impaired judgment
- Distorted hearing or vision
- Worsened coordination and perception
- Blackouts (memory lapses)