Alcohol poisoning is a serious, and sometimes lethal consequence of consuming excessive amounts of alcohol in a short timeframe. According to the CDC, around six people die of alcohol poisoning each day in the United States. Three out of four, or 76%, deaths linked with alcohol poisoning are among adults ages 35 to 64. A vast majority of people with alcohol poisoning are men.
The most prominent symptoms of alcohol poisoning are confusion, slow breathing, and vomiting. Seizures and low body temperature are also among the symptoms of alcohol poisoning.
The reason alcohol poisoning occurs is that excessive levels of alcohol can shut down vital areas of the brain that regulate heart rate, breathing, body temperature, and other functions. People usually develop alcohol poisoning when engaging in binge drinking sessions.
Since alcohol poisoning is a serious complication, it requires emergency action. This post sheds more light on symptoms, causes, treatment, and other useful information about alcohol poisoning.
Alcohol poisoning occurs when blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is at 0.250-0.399%, the University of Notre Dame explains. Blood/breath alcohol concentration describes the amount of alcohol in a person’s breath or bloodstream. It is expressed in grams of ethanol in 100 milliliters of blood (or 210 liters of breath).
Generally speaking, alcohol intoxication happens at a different rate from one person to another. A man weighing up to 160 pounds may experience alcohol poisoning after consuming 15 shots of hard liquor in three to four hours. On the other hand, a woman weighing up to 120 pounds may develop alcohol poisoning after consuming nine shots of hard liquor in the same timeframe.
The concentration of alcohol in the blood continues to rise for up to 30-40 minutes after the last drink. As a result, alcohol poisoning symptoms may become a lot more severe, according to the NHS.
The most common alcohol poisoning symptoms are listed below.
The causes of alcohol poisoning revolve around excessive alcohol intake within a short period which results in a large percentage of alcohol in the blood. Alcohol poisoning causes are listed below.
People who engage in frequent binge drinking sessions are at the highest risk of alcohol poisoning. Various factors are involved in one’s risk of alcohol poisoning. These include size and weight, overall health, whether a person has eaten recently, and whether they’re combining alcohol with other drugs and substances. Other risk factors include the percentage of alcohol in drinks, the amount and rate of alcohol intake, and tolerance level.
In a nutshell, larger people absorb alcohol more slowly than smaller men and women. The more water in the blood, the more diluted alcohol becomes. The lower the body weight, the less water and blood a person has. For that reason, smaller people tend to have a higher ratio of alcohol in their blood if they consume an equal amount as heavier persons.
At the same time, having food in the stomach can slow down the absorption of alcohol. Drinking on an empty stomach puts a person at a higher risk of negative consequences, even alcohol poisoning. Some medications can also negatively influence the absorption of alcohol and contribute to alcohol poisoning.
Men and women who drink regularly can tolerate alcohol better than occasional drinkers. Of course, this isn’t the instruction to drink more frequently because it’s also harmful to overall health.
Young adults, e.g., college students, and adults aged 35 or older are more likely to get alcohol poisoning. This consequence of irresponsible alcohol intake is more common in men than women.
The ways to avoid alcohol poisoning are listed below.
Many men and women wonder how to avoid alcohol poisoning. The only foolproof way to make it happen is to simply avoid drinking alcohol entirely. Those who choose to drink can reduce the risk of alcohol poisoning with these prevention instructions:
You should seek medical attention if you experience symptoms and signs of alcohol poisoning, or even if there are a few symptoms if they are intense. It is particularly important to get medical attention to a person who is unconscious and can’t be awakened because they’re at a high risk of dying.
It is important to bear in mind that alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency. Alcohol poisoning is not something that a person should ignore. When someone has alcohol poisoning they need to call the local emergency number instantly and be prepared to provide information. Hospital emergency personnel will need to know what kind of alcohol was consumed and how much.
In case a person is unconscious, make sure not to leave them alone. Alcohol poisoning affects the gag reflex, which is why an individual with alcohol poisoning is at risk of choking on their vomit and may not be able to breathe. Additionally, one should never make a person with alcohol poisoning vomit (if they can’t) because they could choke.
However, if a person is vomiting, it’s important to keep them sitting up. Make sure to turn their head to the side if they need to lie down. This will prevent choking.
A person with alcohol poisoning needs to stay awake to prevent the loss of consciousness.
The biggest obstacle here is that some people are afraid to get help. Sometimes a person doesn’t think they (or someone else) have alcohol poisoning. In other cases, they’re worried the other person will get angry if they seek help. A prompt reaction and medical attention are vital for saving someone’s life from alcohol poisoning. The sooner a person with alcohol poisoning gets medical treatment, the better the outcome, according to Cleveland Clinic.
While waiting for an ambulance, it’s useful to give a person with alcohol poisoning water if they can drink it. Also, keep them warm. Remember, low body temperature is a major symptom of alcohol poisoning.
One thing nobody should do is to try and sleep it off or suggest it to someone else. Symptoms of alcohol poisoning can worsen as a result.
In the hospital, alcohol poisoning is treated with supportive care while the body eliminates alcohol. The hospital treatment methods for alcohol poisoning are listed below.
Timely treatment of alcohol poisoning is necessary to reduce the risk of dangerous complications. The most common complications of alcohol poisoning include choking, apnea (stopped breathing), seizures, severe dehydration, brain damage, and even death. The process of how to treat alcohol poisoning in hospitals usually revolves around:
The suggested alcohol limits, according to the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, are two drinks or less per day for men and one drink or less a day for women. Women should not exceed seven drinks a week, whereas men should strive not to drink more than 14 drinks a week.
At the same time, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism describes that men should not consume over four drinks a day and women more than three. While these daily limits by different organizations are not the same, the weekly limit is. Both Dietary Guidelines and NIAAA recommend women to avoid exceeding seven drinks a week and men 14.
There is no specific timeframe within which alcohol poisoning can kill you. In some people, death may occur within a few hours e.g., with severe acute alcohol poisoning, but for others, it may be longer. It is important to keep in mind that every person absorbs alcohol at a different rate. For that reason, the timeline of the effects of liquor poisoning may vary from one individual to another.
Yes, it is possible to drink yourself to death when the value of BAC IS 0.40%+. This value of BAC indicates the onset of coma from alcohol and a high risk of death due to respiratory arrest. Most people wonder can alcohol kill you, but they usually believe it’s not possible.
The scariest thing about alcohol intake is that BAC continues to increase for up to 40 minutes after the last drink. For that reason, if a person has drunk a lot of alcohol, they’re at risk of alcohol poisoning and other consequences even when they stop drinking.
Ahmed Zayed, MD, is a physician, an author, and a fitness lover, and he has a deep-seated desire to assist others in leading happier and more fulfilling lives.
Dr. Ahmed Zayed, who received his degree in medicine and surgery from the University of Alexandria, is committed to sharing his expertise with his audience and believes that readers deserve accurate information.
Dr. Zayed has the ability to explain difficult ideas in a way that a layperson can understand while still incorporating a scientific perspective into the discussions that surround those ideas.