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Alcohol Poisoning
11.13.2020

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that there are 2,200 alcohol poisoning deaths per year, or six deaths per day. Thousands more suffer alcohol poisoning but receive treatment quickly enough to prevent death. 

What is Alcohol Poisoning?

When alcohol is consumed, it alters the function of the mind and the body. The severity of this altercation varies based on factors such as how much alcohol a person drinks, what their gender is, and how much they weigh. Typically, the smaller a person is, the faster they become intoxicated. Conversely, the larger a person is, the more alcohol it takes for them to get drunk. 

Alcohol poisoning occurs when too much alcohol has been consumed (typically in a short period of time) for the body to process. The majority of cases occur as a result of binge drinking, which is, in short, drinking too much alcohol in a small span of time. For example, men who consume 5 drinks and women who consume 4 drinks within a period of two hours are technically binge drinking. So while some people experience alcohol poisoning as a result of overconsumption of alcohol because of their addiction to it, others suffer alcohol poisoning because they simply drank too much at once. This is why it is so important to know what the symptoms of alcohol poisoning are, as it can happen to anyone regardless of addiction.

Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning 

Trying to determine the difference between simply drinking too much and experiencing alcohol poisoning can be difficult in some respects, as there are shared symptoms between the two. However, alcohol poisoning often creates symptoms that are impossible to ignore and clearly alert someone that a person is in need of immediate medical attention. All symptoms of alcohol poisoning, including the mild ones, should always be taken seriously. That is because a person’s condition can go from stable to critical within a matter of seconds. 

The symptoms of alcohol poisoning include the following:

  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Slow respiratory rate (less than eight breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing (a space of more than 10 seconds per breath)
  • Bluish skin, especially around the mouth and fingertips
  • Unconsciousness that a person cannot be awoken from 

Alcohol is a depressant substance, meaning that it works to slow the functions of the body down. For example, a slowed respiratory rate is one of the hallmark symptoms of alcohol poisoning because the function of the lungs becomes impaired, making it more difficult for them to work as quickly or as efficiently as they need in order to provide enough oxygen to the body. The nerves throughout the body that control involuntary actions such as breathing are depressed to a point where the body begins shutting down entirely. 

The symptoms of alcohol poisoning will not wear off on their own, meaning if you suspect someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning, it is imperative you take action immediately. 

What Should You Do If You Suspect Alcohol Poisoning?

The most important tool you can have when it comes to helping someone who is experiencing this problem is knowing what the symptoms are. If you know the symptoms of alcohol poisoning then you can get help faster than if you did not know what to look for. If you suspect that someone is suffering from alcohol poisoning, do not wait for more symptoms to develop. Do not wait for the symptoms you are seeing to get worse. Call 911 immediately to receive emergency medical treatment. 

While you wait for an ambulance, there are some things you can do to keep the individual safe and help prevent symptoms from getting worse in the interim. Consider the following:

  • Keep the person sitting up straight if they are awake. If they are unconscious, roll them to their side to prevent choking on vomit. 
  • Do not leave the person unattended. Continue to closely monitor and take note of their symptoms.
  • Cover them with a warm blanket. Doing so can help slow down the process of hypothermia.
  • If the person is awake and not vomiting, have them sip on water until the ambulance arrives

When the ambulance arrives, do your best to inform them of how much alcohol the person has consumed and what symptoms they have already been experiencing. If you can provide a timeframe for the event, doing so can be beneficial in helping to determine what steps to take next. 

It is extremely common for people to want to do anything and everything they can to help when they see someone in distress. When it comes to alcohol poisoning though, it is critical to help in the right ways or else the situation can become worse. Do NOT do the following if you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning:

  • Do not feed them food. They can choke on the food itself or choke on their vomit if they are unable to hold the food.
  • Do not encourage vomiting, as doing so can create the possibility of choking. 
  • Do not have the person walk or move about. If they are a victim of alcohol poisoning, there is a significant chance that they are unstable on their feet and can potentially harm themselves further by falling. 
  • Do not do anything to lower the person’s body temperature. Do not put them in a cold shower or in front of a fan. Keep them as warm as possible until help arrives, preferably by covering them with a blanket or jacket.

Remember, the only thing that is going to save a person’s life if they are experiencing alcohol poisoning is professional medical attention. Within a hospital setting, individuals can receive life-saving care such as intravenous fluids, provision of vitamins and minerals to counteract the effects of the alcohol, and oxygen therapy. In severe cases, patients might receive hemodialysis, which is the process of filtering out toxins in the blood. This care can only be obtained in a hospital, which is why calling 911 is vital.

Do You Need Help?

If you are struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, do not wait until it is too late to get the help you deserve. Call us right now to learn more about how we can help you end your active alcohol use and begin building a life of recovery.

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