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Author: Thomas Roth

Last Updated: 11/15/2021

What Is Alcohol Poisoning 

What Are the Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning comes with many recognizable symptoms. These symptoms vary in intensity depending on how much alcohol someone has consumed.

The symptoms of alcohol poisoning are:

  • Blacking out (loss of short-term memory)

  • Dehydration 

  • Lack of restraint

  • Depression 

  • Euphoria 

  • Flushing 

  • Mental confusion 

  • Coma 

  • General unresponsiveness

  • Vomiting

  • Seizures 

  • Slow or irregular breathing 

  • Loss of consciousness 

  • Changes in body temperature 

While these are the common symptoms of alcohol poisoning when too much alcohol enters the bloodstream symptoms drastically get worse.

What are the Causes of Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning is caused by consuming too much alcohol. A major cause of alcohol poisoning is binge drinking, which is the rapid consumption of alcoholic beverages over a short period. The numbers for hinge drinking vary based on gender. For men, more five or more drinks within two hours is considered binge drinking. For women, it's four drinks within two hours. These alcohol binges can also last several days.

That said, there are more causes of alcohol poisoning than binge drinking. Some examples include:

  • Drinking more alcohol with a low body weight 

  • Binge drinking without eating

  • Mixing alcohol with other drugs

  • The alcohol percentage of your drink

  • Your body's alcohol tolerance level 

The risk factors and causes of alcohol poisoning vary from person to person, so it's important to limit your alcohol consumption to prevent alcohol poisoning from happening. Prevention is always the best treatment.

What are the Risk Factors of Alcohol Poisoning?

There are several risk factors for alcohol poisoning depending on the person. Risk factors can be as simple as an individual's body weight or as complex as an individual's tolerance to alcohol.

Here are some of the most common risk factors of alcohol poisoning:

  • Bodyweight and overall body size (including lean tissues)

  • An individual's general health

  • Whether someone has had a recent meal or snack within 6-8 hours of drinking

  • Mixing alcohol and other substances

  • How strong your drinks are 

  • How fast alcohol is consumed 

  • Alcohol tolerance

Alcohol poisoning has many causes and risk factors, so it's always important to drink responsibly.

What are the Complications of Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning is a serious condition. Alcohol poisoning can even result in your death because of complications that cause seizures, choking, and changes to blood pressure.

The complications of alcohol poisoning vary from person to person but some of the most common complications include:

  • Choking

  • The inability to breathe

  • Dehydration and severe dehydration 

  • Seizures 

  • Hypothermia 

  • Changes in heartbeat 

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system

  • Loss of consciousness 

  • Loss of life 

If you or a loved one is experiencing alcohol poisoning and suffering from these symptoms it's important to get medical help immediately.

What are the Prevention Methods of Alcohol Poisoning?

Avoiding alcohol poisoning is essential if you want to reduce the risk of encountering serious complications from alcohol consumption.

The best ways to prevent alcohol poisoning are:

  • Drink in moderation; don't frequently consume alcohol if you can help it 

  • Make sure you eat a meal high in carbs and fat before consuming alcohol 

  • Avoid binge drinking (consuming more than 5 drinks in 2 hours for men and consuming more than 4 drinks in 2 hours for women)

Children are also more likely to end up with alcohol poisoning. If you're living with children it's important to prevent them from drinking it. Some great strategies include:

  • Storing products in a safe location that children can't get into

  • Have a conversation with your children about alcohol and it's dangers 

  • Make sure you follow up with a doctor and your child if they experienced a bout of alcohol poisoning 

Prevention is the best way to avoid serious complications caused by alcohol poisoning, so make sure you take the necessary steps to drink responsibly.

What are the Emergency Actions for Alcohol Poisoning?

If someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning it's important to act quickly; swift action can save their life. First, call medical emergency services. Medical professionals have the personnel and equipment to help someone who's suffering from alcohol poisoning. Once medical professionals are on their way make sure the individual is laying on their side (if unconscious). Having them lay on their side will prevent vomit from getting caught in their throat and choking them. While you wait for medical professionals make sure you remain with the individual at all times.

What are the Treatment Methods for Alcohol Poisoning?

When someone comes down with alcohol poisoning medical professionals treat the condition by reducing the severity of symptoms (monitoring and preventing patients from choking) and keeping the patient hydrated through intravenous fluids. Medical professionals might also use vitamins and glucose if alcohol poisoning is serious enough. That said, if treated alcohol poisoning typically isn't fatal.

When to Seek Medical Help for Alcohol Poisoning 

You should seek help for alcohol poisoning when an individual is not conscious, breathing slowly (less than eight times per minute), and if there is frequent uncontrolled vomiting. In fact, uncontrolled vomiting can occur when someone is unconscious, so it's important to stay with them until medical professionals arrive.

Once medical professionals arrive the individual will receive treatment through intravenous fluids. Patients can also be treated with vitamins and glucose if patients continue to remain unresponsive. Hospitals are also better equipped to prevent complications from alcohol poisoning. Hospital staff can provide oxygen therapy and prevent patients from choking on vomit.

How Alcohol Poisoning is Treated in Hospitals 

Alcohol poisoning is treated in hospitals with intravenous fluids with the addition of vitamins and glucose. In severe cases, patients may be treated with oxygen therapy. Hospitals also help by preventing patients from choking on vomit and can perform chest compressions if they become unresponsive.

Recommended alcohol limits are put in place to prevent adverse health effects caused by alcohol and used to prevent people from developing alcohol use disorder. While some countries have different guidelines on how much men and women can drink, it all comes down to the units of alcohol consumed each week; this is the most common metric.

The recommended limits for alcohol consumption vary based on gender. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), women should limit their intake to 3 drinks per day and men should limit their intake to 4 drinks per day. Moreover, the NIAAA also recommends that men drink no more than 14 drinks each week and for women, the limit is 7 drinks. According to the NIAAA, these numbers are low-risk drinking.

What are the Effects of Alcohol?

Alcohol has unique effects depending on how much is consumed. That said, many people consume alcohol for its desired effects like euphoria, increased confidence, and less overall inhibition.

The effects of alcohol are measured in units. 1 unit of alcohol is equal to 8 grams of pure alcohol. You'll typically find about 2 units of alcohol in the average glass of wine, 1 unit of alcohol per half-pint, and a shot-sized portion of spirits tends to be 1 unit.

Effects of Around 1 to 2 Units of Alcohol 

After drinking 1 to 2 units of alcohol blood vessels expand, your heart rate increases, and most people report having a warm feeling. After 1 to 2 units of alcohol, most people will be in a better mood and act more socially.

Effects of Around 4 to 6 Units of Alcohol 

After 4 to 6 units of alcohol, the nervous system and brain start to get impacted. At this stage, alcohol starts to mess with the area of the brain responsible for decision-making. People who consume 4 to 6 units of alcohol tend to make poor decisions and start to become uninhibited. 4 to 6 units of alcohol will also cause a lack of coordination and might make you feel light-headed.

Effects of Around 8 to 9 Units of Alcohol 

Consuming 8 to 9 units of alcohol your reaction time continues to slow down, speaking becomes impaired, and blurred vision begins. After drinking 8 to 9 units of alcohol there is a good chance that you'll wake up with a hangover because of the liver's inability to clear the body of alcohol overnight.

Effects of Around 10 to 12 Units of Alcohol 

Consuming 10 to 12 units of alcohol will cause side effects in most individuals. During this stage, alcohol reaches toxic levels within the body. Loss of coordination will get worse, the room might look and feel like it's spinning, and speech tends to be impaired. Moreover, 10 to 12 units of alcohol will cause frequent urination and cause severe headaches in the morning from dehydration. 10 to 12 units of alcohol can also cause a blackout, which occurs when the brain is unable to create new memories.

Effects of More than 12 Units of Alcohol 

Consuming more than 12 units of alcohol in a short period can be fatal. Drinking more than 12 units of alcohol puts you at serious risk for developing alcohol poisoning and complications from alcohol poisoning. These include loss of consciousness, vomiting, choking, and severe dehydration. Drinking more than 12 units of alcohol can also lead to irregular breathing and heart rate. 

If someone begins experiencing these symptoms it's important to get help.

Does Alcohol Poisoning Cause Death?

Yes, alcohol poisoning causes death. Alcohol is a toxic substance, so consuming too much in a short period can overwhelm your liver and cause alcohol to flood your bloodstream. The result is a loss of consciousness, vomiting, severe dehydration, slowed breathing, seizures, and choking. Depending on how severe the case is, any of these symptoms can be fatal. 

That said, with medical treatment the chances of someone dying from alcohol poisoning drop drastically.

Author
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Thomas Roth
Lead Editor

Thomas has been working in the substance abuse industry for over 3 years and he's made it his mission to help those in need. Tom started out by writing content to help people find addiction treatment centers near their location. Once he understood the value in the words he wrote Tom shifted to outreach, editing, and content creation. If nothing else, Tom wants to see those who struggle with Alcohol abuse disorder recover.