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Alcohol Overdose: Causes, Risk Factors, and Symptoms

Too much alcohol in your bloodstream causes the areas of your brain that support breathing, heart rate, and other essential life-supporting functions to start to shut down. Alcohol intoxication occurs when a person drinks an excess of alcohol in one period. One of the biggest dangers is the belief that you can tolerate a large amount of alcohol just because you have consumed that amount in the past. Blood and urine tests can measure alcohol concentration, providing helpful clues about whether alcohol poisoning is the cause of symptoms. Sometimes, however, alcohol may not be present in blood and urine even when the impact of alcohol poisoning is still quite evident. A person experiencing alcohol poisoning may also have other medical issues, such as a head injury or a drug overdose.

  1. Diagnosis of alcohol poisoning is complex, requiring a physical examination, assessment of vital signs, and possibly diagnostic tests.
  2. When somebody consumes an alcoholic drink, their liver has to filter out the alcohol, a toxin, from their blood.
  3. An alcohol overdose is typically treated in the emergency room.
  4. It often happens from drinking excess alcohol-containing beverages, like beer, wine and/or liquor.
  5. At this point, someone’s vital functions can slow so significantly that they could slip into a coma.

These other conditions can complicate the symptoms, making it more challenging to recognize alcohol poisoning. Call 911 or go to the nearest hospital if you notice signs of alcohol poisoning. Then, do what you can to keep the person safe until help arrives. Never leave someone who is drunk alone, whether they are asleep or awake. If you are concerned that they could hurt you, maintain a safe distance while waiting for professional help. Your doctor can diagnose alcohol poisoning based on your symptoms.

How is alcohol intoxication treated?

When a person drinks alcohol, ethanol passes through the digestive system and enters the bloodstream through the linings of the stomach and intestines. If an individual drinks alcohol on an empty stomach, their BAC usually peaks within 30–90 minutes. An alcohol overdose can damage your pancreas, which digests food and monitors the https://sober-home.org/ levels of glucose in your blood. People are at a high risk of alcohol poisoning if they consume 12 or more units of alcohol, especially in a short space of time. This is equivalent to just under 6 medium glasses of wine, or around 7 bottles of 5% beer. This often delays the diagnosis of alcohol poisoning, worsening the outcome.

Binge drinking

Alcohol overdose can lead to permanent brain damage or death. Treatment can vary slightly but generally consists of the same steps whether a person is able to communicate with doctors or is unconscious. “The first thing that we would do when we have a person come into the emergency department for alcohol poisoning is to check their vital signs,” Dr. Farmer says. Vital measures include heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen level, temperature, blood pressure, and blood sugar, and indicate how far from baseline a person may be.

Check if it’s alcohol poisoning

Particularly in regular drinkers, symptoms and the BAC do not necessarily relate to each other, making an accurate measurement beneficial. Alcohol intoxication, also referred to as drunkenness, ethanol alcoholic recovery stages intoxication, or alcohol poisoning in severe cases, is a temporary condition caused by drinking too much alcohol. The amount of alcohol needed for intoxication varies from person to person.

Age, sensitivity to alcohol (tolerance), gender, speed of drinking, medications you are taking, and amount of food eaten can all be factors. Additionally, some drinks, such as mixed drinks, can have more than one serving of alcohol in them. This can make it harder to keep track of how much alcohol you’ve actually consumed. Below we’ll explore some of the factors that can contribute to alcohol poisoning and how long you’ll feel the effects.

What causes alcohol intoxication?

While alcohol poisoning is certainly a concern for people with alcohol use disorder, alcohol poisoning is more common than most people realize and can happen to anyone who drinks. BAC can continue to rise even when a person stops drinking or is unconscious. Alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body.

An individual may want to seek treatment for alcohol use or another mental health condition such as depression or anxiety. If someone experiences alcohol poisoning, they will need time to recover. After receiving medical intervention, they will continue to have severe hangover symptoms until their condition becomes more stable.

As your body digests and absorbs alcohol, the alcohol enters your bloodstream. Your liver breaks down alcohol to remove it from your body because it’s a toxin. But when BAC levels are high, your liver can’t remove the toxins quickly enough. Of course, not every drink is going to lead to alcohol poisoning, but it’s still important to understand that it can be serious. So if you find that a glass or two turns into a bottle or more, you might want to take a hard look at your drinking habits, Dr. Andrews suggests.

But as you continue to drink and your BAC rises, your blood vessels start to constrict and reduce blood flow and, therefore, heat distribution. It’s pretty common to feel a little barfy after downing too much booze, but vomiting is one of the first signs that someone has had too much to drink. Alcohol intoxication refers to a temporary condition that occurs when a person drinks an excess of alcohol at one time. It causes physical and behavioral symptoms that range from mild to severe. Prompt treatment of an alcohol overdose can prevent life-threatening health problems.

When this happens, your body might go from taking 12 to 20 breaths per minute to less than eight breaths. Irregular breathing, in which a 10-second or more gap between breaths occurs, is also a possibility. This may be quickly followed by a drop in blood oxygen levels, where you might notice the skin turning blue, starting with fingers, toes, and lips. An alcohol overdose is typically treated in the emergency room. The emergency room physician will monitor your vital signs, including your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. Even when someone stops drinking, blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise for minutes, resulting in worsening symptoms.

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MD Ijaz

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