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Definition

What is alcohol poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning is a serious condition when you drink large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Drinking too much and too quickly is able to influence your breathing, heart rate, body temperature and gag reflex and most severely lead to a coma and death.

Alcohol poisoning can also happen when adults or children accidentally or intentionally drink household products containing alcohol.

Noticeably, a person with alcohol poisoning requires immediate medical attention.

How common is alcohol poisoning?

Young adults are more likely to drink excessively, leading to an alcohol overdose. Men are more likely than women to drink heavily, resulting in a greater risk for an alcohol overdose.

However, it can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

Symptoms

What are the symptoms of alcohol poisoning?

Some common signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning may include:

  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
  • Irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths)
  • Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Passing out (unconsciousness) and can’t be awakened

When should I see my doctor?

Early diagnosis and treatment can stop this condition from worsening and prevent another medical emergency, so talk to your doctor as soon as possible to prevent this serious condition.

If you have any questions, please consulting with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.

Causes

What causes alcohol poisoning?

Alcohol is a substance that can affect all of your organs. An alcohol overdose happens when you drink more alcohol than your body can safely process. First, the stomach and small intestine quickly absorb alcohol so that it enters the bloodstream at a rapid rate. The more alcohol you drink, the greater the quantity that enters your bloodstream.

The liver is the organ that plays a major role in metabolizing alcohol, but it can only break down so much at one time. Therefore, what the liver can’t break down is redirected throughout the rest of the body.

Usually, the body can safely process 1 ounce of alcohol per hour. If you drink more than this, you may consume so much alcohol that it causes your body to stop working properly because your liver can’t break it down.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for alcohol poisoning?

You may have higher risks for this condition if you are experiencing these following conditions:

  • Young adults are more likely to drink excessively, leading to an alcohol overdose.
  • Men are more likely than women to drink heavily, resulting in a greater risk for an alcohol overdose.
  • Your height and weight determine how fast your body absorbs alcohol. People with smaller bodies may experience the effects of alcohol more quickly than someone with a larger body. The smaller-bodied person may experience overdose after drinking the same amount that a larger-bodied person can consume safely.
  • Having a high tolerance for alcohol or drinking quickly by playing drinking games can put you at increased risk for alcohol overdose.
  • People who binge drink (drink more than five drinks in an hour) are also at risk for alcohol overdose.
  • If you have other health conditions such as diabetes, you may be at greater risk for having an alcohol overdose.
  • If you combine alcohol and drugs, you may not feel the effects of the alcohol. This may cause you to drink more, increasing your risk for alcohol overdose.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is alcohol poisoning diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects that you experience alcohol poisoning, he/she will perform an exam thoroughly to determine this condition.

To check for visible signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning, your doctor will likely order blood and urine tests to check blood alcohol levels and identify other signs of alcohol toxicity, such as low blood sugar.

How is alcohol poisoning treated?

Alcohol poisoning treatment usually involves supportive care while your body rids itself of the alcohol. This typically includes:

  • Careful monitoring
  • Prevention of breathing or choking problems
  • Oxygen therapy
  • Fluids given through a vein (intravenously) to prevent dehydration
  • Use of vitamins and glucose to help prevent serious complications of alcohol poisoning
  • Adults and children who have accidentally consumed methanol or isopropyl alcohol may need hemodialysis, a mechanical way of filtering waste and toxins from your system, to speed the removal of alcohol from their bloodstream.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage alcohol poisoning?

You can’t reverse the effects of alcohol poisoning, and you could actually make things worse through some actions.

  • Sleeping it off

You can lose consciousness while asleep

  • Black coffee or caffeine

This does not counteract the effects of alcohol poisoning

  • A cold shower

The shock of cold can cause a loss of consciousness

  • Walking it off

This does not increase the speed at which alcohol leaves your body

Some tips that can help you avoid alcohol poisoning:

  • Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all

If you choose to drink alcohol, do so in moderation. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. When you do drink, enjoy your drink slowly.

  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach

Having some food in your stomach may slow alcohol absorption somewhat, although it won’t prevent alcohol poisoning if, for example, you’re binge drinking.

  • Communicate with your teens

Talk to your teenagers about the dangers of alcohol, including binge drinking.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Review Date: June 26, 2017 | Last Modified: June 26, 2017

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