What is Alcohol Poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning, also called alcohol overdose is a medical complication that happens when a person drinks too much alcohol within a short period of time. Alcohol poisoning is dangerous and can lead to death. (1)
Alcohol poisoning treatment can help identify whether a person is regularly putting themselves at risk of alcohol poisoning.
When the blood alcohol concentration is too high, the central nervous system will be impacted, and could lead to life threatening symptoms such as breathing difficulties and a high or slowed heart rate.
It is extremely important that alcohol poisoning or alcohol overdose be dealt with as soon as it happens.
Beware! Telling the person in question to drink coffee, sleep it off or vomit will NOT help them, but rather make the alcohol poisoning worse . (2)
Who Is At Risk?
Anyone that takes alcohol is at risk.
But people who suffer from alcohol abuse and who tend to take a lot of alcohol within a short time have a great risk of alcohol poisoning, worse still - they are at risk of alcohol poisoning deaths.
Each year, more and more people are dying from alcohol overdose. In 2020 alone, 8,974 alcohol poisoning deaths were reported in the UK. This was a rise from 2019's 7,565 reported deaths. (3)
It is important to note that anyone can be at risk of alcohol poisoning, even if they don't suffer from alcohol abuse.
Additionally, if one does not watch how much alcohol they are consuming, they will be at risk as well.
According to alcohol poisoning diagnosis, the following factors affect one's chances of suffering from poisoning;
- One's age
- The total amount of food in one's stomach.
- One's previous drinking experience.
Causes Of Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol poisoning is caused by having a high blood alcohol level. This means that one has too much alcohol in the blood.
Alcohol poisoning can be measured using a urine tests, and other types of breathalyzer tests which seek to calculate the blood alcohol concentration BAC, in percentage format. (4)
One doesn't have to engage in excessive alcohol intake or alcohol consumption for the alcohol levels to rise.
Even one drink with a high alcohol concentration can cause health risks and alcohol poisoning, including severe symptoms such as;
- Gag reflex that can lead to one chocking on their own vomit.
- Difficulty remaining conscious
- High blood pressure
- And other serious complications.
Symptoms Of Alcohol Poisoning Or Alcohol Overdose
The main life threatening symptoms of alcohol poisoning according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism are; (5)
Lack of coordination
Irregular or slow breathing
Blue-tinged or pale skin
Low body temperature
Being conscious and unresponsive
Unconsciousness passing out
Seizures can also become apparent
A lowered reaction time (5)
Treatment For Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol poisoning should be treated as a medical emergency. Seek medical attention immediately one suspects their loved one is suffering from alcohol poisoning and ensure they are medically reviewed especially if one is dealing with an unconscious person.
Check for vital life functions before seeking treatment as one can provide quick first aid if their are serious health risks involved.
Hydrating the patient and making sure oxygen intake is adequate is very important to recovery. As stated before, binge drinking is one of the main causes of alcohol poisoning.
Binge drinking can cause a number of injuries, overdoses and mental health problems.
For adults and children who haven't necessarily been drinking but may have ingested or consumed isopropyl alcohol or methanol, they will need hemodialysis.
Hemodialysis is a medical process of filtering toxins and wastes from one's system. Even when one has a mild impairment of isopropyl alcohol, they should be medically reviewed to speed up the process of removing alcohol from their bloodstream. (6)
Please note that home remedies for alcohol poisoning rarely work, and taking a cold shower (contrary to popular belief) will also not help matters. In fact, this will cause the person to lose consciousness.
The most severe cases of alcohol poisoning will most likely lead to death, so seek medical attention as quickly as possible.
Supportive care is also important when dealing with alcohol poisoning. (7)
Here's What Happens At The Hospital
When one arrives at the hospital for alcohol poisoning, the healthcare professionals will use the following methods to try and save the patient's life;
In this case, one is given Intravenous Fluids as treatment for dehydration. The fluids will also help increase one's blood sugar levels.
The doctors will give the patient oxygen using the nasal cannula. They will attach a flexible tube on one's nose. This happens when one has trouble breathing.
Through a tube, the doctors will seek to clear the patient's stomach of toxins immediately.
In case one's kidneys are unable to do the job, the doctors may be required to start dialysis treatment so as to filter the alcohol from one's blood. (8)
Incase one thinks they are at risk of alcohol poisoning as a result of excessive alcohol intake, one should seek alcohol treatment or rehab help. When a person frequently binge drinks it indicates that they may have a serious alcohol problem.
What To Do When Dealing With A Possible Alcohol Poisoning
Incase one notices someone suffering from alcohol poisoning, it is advisable to do the following;
- Seek help Immediately. Call the paramedics.
- Keep the person awake and check that their vital functions are working.
- Provide some water, let them sip in order to stay hydrated.
- Keep the person warm by covering them with a warm blanket. Alcohol poisoning is likely to cause hypothermia. (9)
- Explain to them all of these actions as they may resist. Heavy drinking is likely to affect one's decision making skills.
- Take care to prevent chocking - If the person is unconscious, they should be turned on their sides, so they do not end up chocking on their own vomit.
Once the paramedics arrive, let them know everything about the person, especially when they had the last drink and their most recent drinking habits. (9)
How Can One Prevent Alcohol Poisoning?
In order to prevent alcohol poisoning, one should try to drink responsibly by keeping track of alcohol consumed. It is also wise to avoid heavy drinking.
Substance abuse can easily lead to alcohol poisoning, and getting help from a substance abuse treatment center may help reduce the risks of alcohol poisoning.
Learning when enough is enough is a great strategy. Additionally, here are some tips to help prevent alcohol poisoning;
- Do not engage in drinking games - these games are likely to put pressure on an individual leading one to binge drink.
- Always stay hydrated - one should always drink water while drinking alcohol as it can really help control the blood alcohol level.
- Avoid mixing alcohol with medication - Taking prescription medications as one tries to drink alcohol is not advisable. This could lead to more complications.
- Eat well before alcohol intake - one should not drink on an empty stomach. When one takes alcohol on an empty stomach, it passes straight to the bloodstream raising the blood alcohol level.
- Stay alert - one should avoid drinking alcohol before fully understanding its contents especially when mixed with other ingredients. (10)
The Prognosis - What Happens After Alcohol Poisoning?
After alcohol poisoning, one could stop breathing, have a heart attack and eventually die by chocking on their own vomit.
One could also be severely dehydrated and this can cause permanent brain damage. In extreme cases one can develop hyperthermia and have seizures.
The result is also a lowered blood sugar, repeated vomiting and retching that can cause one to vomit blood. The body temperature may also get very low with a low blood sugar. (11)
If one knows of a friend or family member that suffers from substance abuse and is at risk for alcohol poisoning, it is good to seek help from a qualified rehab clinic.
They will receive help for excessive alcohol consumption and addiction. In the end one may save a life.
The long-term effects of alcohol use disorder and alcoholism can be devastating. Get help now before things get worse. (12)
Signs and Symptoms of Binge drinking
It's easy to be and remain in denial about one's own or a loved one’s addiction. When the following signs and symptoms of binge drinking or alcohol abuse are noticed, it may be time to seek alcohol treatment.
- Increase in alcohol tolerance
- Drinking to relieve stress or emotional pain
- Memory blackouts
- Lost interest in usual activities
- Money troubles
- Physical deterioration
- Avoiding family and friends
- Many failed attempts to control or stop alcohol dependence
- An urgency to have that “first drink”
- Has dark moods and is irritable
- Guilt and remorse about drinking dependence
- Lack of concentration
But, How Much Is Too Much?
Alcohol usually is absorbed quickly into one's body before other nutrients. It therefore takes a lot more time for the body to rid itself of the alcohol consumed. Alcohol is then processed or metabolised by the liver.
The more one drinks within a short period of time, the greater the risk of alcohol poisoning. One drink can be defined as;
- 12 ounces of regular beer containing at least 5% alcohol.
- Between 8 and9 ounces of malt liquor containing about 7% of alcohol.
- 5 ounces of wine containing about 12% of alcohol.
Binge drinking refers to exceeding the recommended limits of 10 drinks for men and 8 drinks for women. (13)
To avoid alcohol poisoning, the best option would be controlling how much alcohol one is taking or quitting alcoholism altogether.
Alcohol addiction doesn't just expose one to alcohol poisoning, but a whole lot of issues that include;
- Heart failure
- Increased breast and gastrointestinal cancer risk
- Neurological complications
- Unintentional injuries
- High blood pressure.
- Liver disease
The good news, is that if one is able to quit before the onset of some of these diseases, a study from the national institute shows that one can become 100% healthy. (12)
The process of substance abuse treatment is a long and complicated one, but it can be done. Abbeycare is a tried and tested clinic that offers substance abuse treatment. Contact the clinic today for a detailed assessment and help with addiction treatment.