Alcohol Poisoning can put you or someone you love in immediate danger. If you suspect alcohol poisoning, please call 911. After the situation is stabilized, call Futures immediately to start safe detox and treatment. Next-day treatment may be possible.
Did you know that a person can experience an alcohol-related “blackout” and be fully conscious? If someone drinks too much alcohol, he or she might pass out, which is often mistaken for falling suddenly asleep, but it is actually a life-threatening condition. If a person experiences a blackout, he or she might still be awake, and still be drinking, and have no recollection of the events the next day. These situations could also involve another life-threatening condition: alcohol poisoning. This condition is often the result of binge drinking or consuming a large amount of alcohol in a very short amount of time.
When alcohol poisoning happens, the level of alcohol in the body actually becomes toxic and it can kill the person if it is not treated. This can be especially dangerous because, unlike other drugs of abuse, alcohol continues to build up in the blood and body even after someone has stopped drinking. For example, if someone has consumed cocaine and then they stop using it, the substances in their body will continue to metabolize out of the body, and it immediately begins to decrease its effects.
When it comes to alcohol, however, it is digested like any other beverage. It must metabolize through the liver and into the bloodstream before the individual begins to feel the effects. This means that when a person decides they have “had enough,” it is already too late. Their last few drinks have not yet been metabolized and will continue to increase the blood alcohol concentration levels. If a person drinks so much that they have passed out (remember, this is different than falling asleep by choice), their BAC will continue to rise rather than fall for quite some time. The symptoms of alcohol poisoning begin with confusion and, if one isn’t careful, can end with coma and death. But there are some signs of alcohol poisoning in between these two elements. These symptoms include:
- Hypothermia; the body temperature drops dangerously low
- Slowed breathing; if breathing falls below eight breaths per minute, the body is not receiving enough oxygen
- Pale or bluish complexion
Vomiting is, among other things, a reflex of the human body to expel something that is dangerous to the person who ingested it. If an individual has consumed so much alcohol that the body itself is rejecting it, this is a sign of a significant problem.
What Is Alcohol Poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning, also known as an alcohol overdose, is when you have too much alcohol in your blood that it causes parts of your brain to shut down.
When there is too much alcohol in the bloodstream, regions of the brain that regulate basic life-support functions start to shut down, including breathing, heart rate, and temperature. Alcohol overdose causes the following symptoms:
- Mental confusion
- Difficulty remaining conscious
- Trouble breathing
- Slow heart rate
- Clammy or pale skin
- Dulled responses such as no gag reflex (which prevents choking)
- Extremely low body temperature
Alcohol poisoning can lead to permanent brain damage or even death.
There seems to be a fine line between drinking till you cause impairments and drinking till you put your life at risk. But this situation can vary among individuals. There are many factors that influence this situation, such as:
- Your age
- Your sensitivity to alcohol (tolerance)
- Your gender
- The speed of drinking (binge drinking)
- Any medication you are currently taking
- The amount of food eaten before you start drinking
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an average of 6 people dies of alcohol poisoning each day in the US.
Treatment for Alcohol Poisoning
If someone you love suffers from alcoholism, it is important to not only recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning but also to know what to do if you suspect your loved one may be in significant and immediate danger. Be prepared to call 911 should it be necessary. Do not second-guess yourself if the time comes. It is better to have called for help and not needed it than to hesitate and make that call too late.
If your loved one is unconscious, meaning you cannot rouse them with a normal stimulus such as calling their name or giving physical contact, it is time to get immediate help. Their blood alcohol content may have reached the point where their life is in danger, and medical professionals will be required to mitigate these effects.
How to Deal with Alcohol Poisoning
If alcohol poisoning is suspected, an ambulance should be summoned as soon as possible. Another alternative is to call a poison control center, but receiving emergency medical attention as soon as possible is important.
Anyone suspected of having this condition must never be left unattended in a pool or while lying alone as they are in danger of drowning or choking on their vomit.
Make sure to stay by their side till help arrives and keep them sitting upright or lying down on their side.
Cold showers are a bad idea because with the body temperature already dropping, it will only make matters worse. A blanket or a jacket can be used to warm the person up.
Showering in cold water is a bad idea as it can only make things worse because your body temperature is already decreasing. Instead, keep the person warm by using a blanket or a sweater.
Since alcohol poisoning causes severe dehydration, rehydration is critical. Even if the water is vomited, continuous water intake is necessary to help improve their condition. However, it’s important that they can drink water on their own without pushing it down their throats, as this can cause them to drown.
When calling for assistance or bringing the person to the hospital, be prepared to provide as much information as possible about the type of alcohol consumed and how much was consumed, as well as when the person started drinking and when the symptoms began.
Never leave someone who appears to be suffering from alcohol poisoning alone or unattended.
How Do You Treat Alcohol Poisoning?
This condition can only be reversed if immediate medical attention is provided. In a medical setting, healthcare professionals will use:
- IV fluids: Doctors will provide intravenous (IV) fluids to treat dehydration. Fluids can also increase blood sugar levels.
- Oxygen therapy: Medical staff can give oxygen using a nasal cannula (flexible tube clipped to the nose). They may put a small tube into the windpipe if a person has trouble breathing.
- Stomach pumping: Using a tube, healthcare providers can clear the stomach of toxins.
- Blood filtration: If kidneys aren’t able to do the job, providers may start dialysis to filter alcohol from the blood in extreme emergency medical situations.