Alcohol poisoning occurs when you drink too much alcohol over a short period of time, and your blood alcohol level spikes high enough to impair the areas of the brain that control basic life support functions such as breathing and heart rate.
Symptoms of alcohol poisoning
The symptoms of alcohol poisoning are usually life-threatening and require immediate medical attention. These symptoms include:
- Irregular heart rhythm
- Shallow or slowed breathing
- Dulled responses (e.g. no gag reflex)
In some situations, the person may choke on his or her own vomit and inhale it into their lungs. Breathing may stop completely, and the person may progress from unconsciousness into a coma. In severe situations, the person can go into a coma and eventually die.
What causes alcohol poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning, put simply, is caused by consuming too much alcohol for your body to process.
Binge drinking, or rapidly quaffing five or more drinks in a row, is a major cause of alcohol poisoning. Ingestion of products containing high concentrations of alcohol—such as hand sanitizer or other household products—is another common cause of alcohol poisoning.
Alcohol is a depressant drug, which means it suppresses certain areas of your brain.
- In small amounts, it will lowers inhibitions
- In moderate amounts, it causes lose coordination, slurred speech—the classic signs of drunkenness.
- With high exposures, alcohol will suppress the basic life functions. This is alcohol poisoning.
How common is alcohol poisoning?
According to Medical News Today, college students, chronic drinkers and people taking medication that may clash with alcohol are at the highest risk for alcohol poisoning.
Each year, there are approximately 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning in the U.S., and about one patient dies each week from alcohol poisoning.
How can I prevent alcohol poisoning?
Practical tips to avoid alcohol poisoning
- Don’t drink too fast. The faster a person consumes drinks, the quicker the blood alcohol concentration will rise.
- Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Learn what types of food are most efficient at blocking the effects of alcohol.
- Don’t drink if you’re taking medication. Certain pain killers and cold medicines can have a synergistic effect and can multiple the effects of alcohol up to ten times. (Read about 5 Dangerous Drug and Alcohol Combinations.)
- Be aware of your emotional state. Mood can affect the way you react to alcohol. Feelings of stress, depression, anxiety, and anger can change the rate your body absorbs alcohol.
Although these tips can help you avoid alcohol poisoning, following them doesn’t prevent you from suffering negative effects from drinking. Many people who drink for the purpose of getting drunk fool themselves into thinking that they can actually control how much they drink.
Once you’re drunk, you will likely suffer from impaired memory, lack of coordination, and impaired judgment. With these impairments, it’s difficult to control how much you drink—or remember how many drinks you’ve had already.
The best way to prevent alcohol poisoning is to drink within the safety guidelines set by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism:
- No more than 2 standard drinks a day for men, and
- No more than 1 standard drink a day for women
Don’t pave the way for addiction
If you’re drinking to get drunk, you are abusing alcohol, which isn’t beneficial to you or those around you. Negative consequences can occur long before alcohol poisoning, and even if alcohol poisoning never occurs.
Alcohol poisoning can cause severe, chronic medical conditions, but any type of alcohol abuse will have consequences that can range from a DUI to death.
Drinking too much fertilizes the soil where addiction takes root.
In our founder Gene Duffy’s words. “No one know s what’s going to happen to him the next time he drinks. . . Each of us in this room certainly has another opportunity to get drunk but no one in this room knows if he or she has run out of opportunities to recover.”
If you or a loved one is struggling with drinking problems, call a Duffy’s representative today. 1.707.348.4874