What is Alcohol Poisoning and How Does it Happen?
Alcohol is one of the most widely used substances in the country. In 2021, an estimated 16.1 million adults between 18 and 25 reported drinking alcohol within the past month.1 Of those, 9.8 million reported binge drinking in the past month, and 2.4 million reported heavy alcohol use.1 Unfortunately, excessive alcohol use can lead to a number of dangerous consequences, including alcohol overdose.2
In this article, you will learn about what alcohol poisoning is, how long alcohol poisoning lasts, the effects of alcohol poisoning, and how alcohol poisoning happens.
What Is Alcohol Poisoning?
When the alcohol in a person’s bloodstream is too high, alcohol poisoning (also known as alcohol overdose) can occur.2 As a result of excessive alcohol in the bloodstream, certain areas of the brain cannot perform basic but vital life-support functions such as controlling breathing, heart rate, and body temperature.2 The interruption of these functions can lead to permanent brain injury or death. According to the CDC, 2300 people die from alcohol poisoning a year.4
Alcohol Poisoning Causes
The amount of alcohol required to reach an overdose varies from person to person.2 Several factors play a role in alcohol overdose, including:2
- The amount of food consumed before or during drinking.
- The speed at which you drink alcohol.
- Your tolerance (sensitivity to alcohol).
- Other medications you are taking.
Additionally, taking opioids, sedatives, or benzodiazepines can increase the likelihood of alcohol overdose. Drinking alcohol – even moderate amounts — with these types of substances enhance their individual effects and can result in overdose.2
Anyone who drinks too much alcohol is at risk for alcohol poisoning, but binge drinking is a major risk factor.2 Binge drinking is the most common form of excessive alcohol use.4 When someone binge drinks, it can overwhelm the body’s ability to process alcohol, leading to toxic levels of alcohol in the blood, resulting in alcohol poisoning.2
Alcohol Poisoning Effects
The effects of alcohol poisoning can be severe and even life-threatening and can include.2
- Mental stupor and/or confusion.
- Changes in breathing, including irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between each breath) and slowed breathing (less than 8 breaths per minute).
- Decreased heart rate.
- Delayed or muted responses, such as poor gag reflex that can contribute to choking.
- Severely low body temperature that can result in pale or bluish-colored skin.
- Loss of consciousness, unresponsiveness, and difficulty waking up.
- Clammy skin.
- Brain damage.
What to Do if Someone Has Alcohol Poisoning
If you suspect someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning, it is essential to act quickly and get medical help immediately; do not wait for the person to show all the signs of alcohol poisoning.2
If you think someone has alcohol poisoning:2
- Call 911 right away.
- Attempt to get as much information as possible, such as how much alcohol was consumed, any other substances that may have been taken, health conditions, etc.
- Do not attempt to give them coffee, put them in a cold shower, or have them walk it off. This may worsen the situation.
- Keep the person on the floor, sitting or upright, to help prevent choking or falls.
- If the person is vomiting, help them by leaning them over to prevent choking. If they are lying down or unconscious, roll them onto their side with an ear toward the ground.
- Make sure to stay with the person until emergency personnel arrive.
Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Dallas, TX
Fortunately, healing from alcohol addiction is possible. With the help of medical and addiction professionals, recovery is possible. There are many different ways to treat addiction. At Greenhouse Treatment Center, an inpatient rehab near Dallas, we work with you to create an addiction treatment plan that is specific and unique to you and your recovery goals.
You can call to speak with one of our trained and compassionate admissions navigators to get information about our facilities and the services we provide. Our admissions navigators can help you start the admissions process, verify your insurance coverage, and discuss ways to pay for rehab if you don’t have insurance. Don’t let addiction control you or your life any longer. Get the help you need today to live the life you deserve.
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