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Alcohol Poisoning: Identifying Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is a severe risk that individuals take each time they consume large amounts of alcohol in a brief period. Not only can excessive alcohol consumption lead to addiction, but the damage to your health can be detrimental. 

No amount of alcohol is beneficial to your health, but understanding your limit can drastically reduce the chances of an emergency visit to the hospital after overconsumption. Part of understanding your limit is also understanding what poisoning looks like; this means spotting the symptoms to act quickly and get the help you or the affected individual needs. 

What Alcohol Poisoning Looks Like

The dangerous thing about alcohol overconsumption is that it can frequently be mistaken with another case of intoxication. In these cases, some individuals will just assume that they can just sleep it off, but this only increases the risk of a fatal result. 

Alcohol acts as a depressant and hinders signals in the brain that control the body’s automatic responses, so ultimately you won’t be able to convey that you’re experiencing alcohol over intoxication. In turn, those around you may not be able to either. This is why knowing how to identify alcohol poisoning is crucial. You should always look out for:

  • Difficulty remaining conscious
  • Clammy skin
  • Dulled responses of the body’s automatic responses (gag reflex)
  • Overly low body temperatures
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slowed breathing
  • Confusion

Identifying these symptoms is vital to getting an affected individual the help they require. With the body not registering automatic responses, an individual is more susceptible to choking on their vomit. This can lead to death and long-lasting and irreversible brain damage that could impede someone’s quality of life in survival cases. 

How Much Alcohol is Enough to be Fatal?

The amount of alcohol it takes to induce poisoning on a person varies by individual factors like height, weight, and overall health, but according to the American Addiction Centers, BACs between 0.60 and 0.80 percent are fatal. Most alcohol poisoning occurs due to binge drinking, which is when men have more than five drinks, and women more than four drinks within two hours. (For reference, one drink equals 12 ounces of five-percent beer, eight ounces of seven-percent liquor, five ounces of 12-percent wine, or 1.5 ounces of 40-percent spirits.)

Just to put this BAC range into perspective, these are the different levels of impairment:

  • 0.00-0.05 percent: The individual experiences mild impairment in their ability to speak, maintain balance, recall specific events, and retain their attention. Individuals within this range may also experience sleepiness. (often perceived as relaxation)
  • 0.06-0.15 percent: Individuals within this range are at an increased risk of aggressive behavior. They may also experience impaired balance, motor functions, and memory.
  • 0.16-0.30 percent: This BAC range results in severe levels of impairment which may result in tremendously decreased speech, balance, memory, reaction times, and motor functions. Some individuals experience blackouts, vomiting, and loss of consciousness. Decision-making skills are heavily affected.
  • 0.31-0.45 percent: This BAC range is life-threatening and is typically where alcohol poisoning occurs. Individuals in this range are at severe risk of experiencing loss of consciousness and death. Most vital functions in this BAC range are suppressed. 

Knowing how much alcohol can be fatal is essential, but it can be more beneficial to gauge how much alcohol can negatively impact your health before reaching this stage. It’s also worth noting that even drinking within low to moderate limits can increase your risk of diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Actions to Take When You Notice Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

According to the Chief Medical Officer of American Addiction Centers, Lawrence Weinstein, MD, alcohol poisoning kills six people in the U.S. every day. If you’re witnessing someone experiencing poisoning, the most important thing to do is to call 911 immediately; even if you’re unsure, it’s better to be safe. Once you’ve dialed 911, you should do everything in your power to keep the person awake, upright, and leaning forward to avert them from choking. If for whatever reason the person must lie down, make sure to turn their head to the side.

Additionally, poisoning from alcoholic beverages will dramatically reduce the individual’s body temperature, so it’s vital to keep them warm in whatever way that you can. 

While you wait for emergency services to arrive, you should be prepared to provide any information that they may need to address the individual. This includes the amount of alcohol consumed, the time(s) in which they began to display symptoms of alcohol poisoning, and information on their medical and health conditions if you are familiar with them. 

The Effects of Excessive Alcohol Abuse

Death is perhaps the worst-case scenario due to excessive alcohol consumption, but there are also long-lasting and short-term consequences to be aware of. Almost half of all alcohol-related deaths are usually a result of long-term conditions such as cancer and liver disease. Aside from chronic health conditions, the short-term effects of excessive alcohol consumption can be just as destructive: this includes accidents caused by impairment such as vehicle crashes, accidental overdoses due to substance mixing, and even suicide if intoxicated under extreme mental and emotional stress.

Seeking Help for Alcohol Addiction 

Binge drinking and alcohol poisoning are signs that someone may be suffering from alcohol addiction, and unfortunately, it is something that can’t be overcome alone. Alcohol addiction recovery requires a professional recovery center’s extensive knowledge and assistance like Ardu Recovery Center. Our state-of-the-art detox and residential treatment center in Provo, Utah, offers alternative holistic and medical therapies to help you or someone you know overcome alcoholism. Give us a call today at 801-512-0086 or fill out our consultation form to get started on your journey to a healthier and more enjoyable life.