Alcohol poisoning takes the lives of more than 2,000 people every year in the United States. It typically occurs after binge drinking or drinking a lot of alcohol in a short period of time. Alcohol poisoning is extremely dangerous and can be lethal.
What Is Alcohol Poisoning?
When you consume alcohol at a faster rate than your body can handle, alcohol poisoning occurs. Your body breaks down alcohol quickly, but it cannot exit your system as rapidly, so drinking a lot all at once can be dangerous. Everyone’s bodies absorb and digest alcohol differently, many factors that lead to alcohol poisoning include your gender, age, weight, alcohol tolerance, and how fast you are drinking.
Most of the alcohol you consume is processed and digested by the liver, and alcohol absorbs into your system much faster than food which usually takes a few hours to digest. When the body has consumed more alcohol than it can possibly get rid of, your body starts to shut down and not work properly.
Signs of alcohol poisoning may vary by the individual, but the most common signs are:
- Unconsciousness or passing out
- Slowed or irregular breathing
- Pale or blue skin
If you witness someone showing these signs, call medical professionals right away for assistance.
What Causes Alcohol Poisoning?
One of the biggest reasons alcohol poisonings occurs is due to binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as a certain type of drinking pattern in which the individual drinks as much as .08% of alcohol or higher. To break this down, it means that for a woman drinking more than 4 alcoholic drinks in 2 hours would be considered binge drinking, and five alcoholic drinks in two hours for men.
Unfortunately, binge drinking is a very common drinking pattern among individuals in the United States. In 2019, over 66 million people reported binge drinking within the last two months. After you have consumed more than .08% of alcohol, your impairment becomes worse. After more than half of that percentage, you may experience vomiting and possibly even blackout. Any amount of alcohol past .30% can be deadly and cause brain damage.
If you know someone who binge drinks and may be at risk for alcohol poising, you should know when medical help needs to be implemented. Here’s what you should do if you witness alcohol poisoning:
- Call medical help as soon as you possibly can, before you do anything else
- Try to keep the individual awake as long as possible and do not leave their side
- If the individual is awake, provide them with water to hydrate them
- If you can, try to keep the individual warm because hypothermia can occur
- Let them know verbally what you are doing to help them
- Prevent choking by turning the individual on their side in case they vomit
By doing these actions above, you may be able to save the persons life. When medical help arrives, give them all the information you can about what help you have given.
How To Treat Alcohol Poisoning
Treating your alcohol poisoning will most likely require hospitalization and medical help immediately. Treatment for alcohol poisoning may require:
- You will need IV fluids to keep you hydrated because severe amounts of alcohol dehydrate you at dangerous levels.
- Possible oxygen in case you are not able to breathe on your own
- Medical professionals may want to pump your stomach to get out the toxins alcohol flows through your system
- Dialysis may also be necessary if your kidneys start to fail, this will filter alcohol form your blood
After you recover from alcohol poisoning, it may be time to consider long term treatment for your alcohol use disorder. It will also be crucial to enter therapy to determine the underlying causes of your addiction.
What Can You Do to Avoid Alcohol Poisoning?
Alcohol is ok to drink in moderation, but if you are not able to drink in moderation you may want to avoid it at all costs. When drinking in moderation, you should also drink slowly so your body has enough time to rid itself of the toxins in your blood. If you are in public drinking out with friends, you should monitor your drinking and those around you as well. It is also a good idea to eat before you start drinking, this helps to slow the breakdown of alcohol in the body. Avoid drinking games, peer pressure, and driving when drinking alcohol and always drink water when drinking alcohol. Another way to prevent alcohol poisoning is to not mix alcohol with medications or other drugs, this can put you at higher risk of alcohol poisoning, overdose, and death.
Blood alcohol concentration or BAC is a method used to determine how much alcohol is in your bloodstream. Your blood alcohol concentration varies by how much you have eaten prior to drinking, your weight, age, gender, genetics, and patterns of drinking.
When you have high amounts of alcohol in your blood you may start to feel:
- Slower reflexes
- Slurred speech
- Memory problems
- Blacking out
- Blurry vision
- Higher blood pressure
Blood alcohol concentration levels are used by authorities to measure how much you have had to drink while operating a vehicle. In almost all states in the US, the drinking limit to drive is .08% BAC. If pulled over with more than that percentage in your system, you will be fined and jailed.
Don’t Let Alcohol Poisoning Happen
Alcohol poisoning is preventable. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol abuse, it may be time to consider treatment. Contact treatment providers today to obtain more information on what you can do to avoid alcohol poisoning.