Alcohol poisoning might seem like a young person’s problem, but it affects more than college students. In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 75.7% of deaths caused by alcohol poisoning were adults ages 35 to 64. This number is significantly higher than their college-age counterparts. It’s a population-wide issue, and it frequently happens, with six alcohol poisoning deaths occurring per day, on average. Keep in mind the seven critical symptoms of alcohol poisoning whenever you’re drinking.
If you or a loved one tends to overindulge in alcohol, reach out to our alcohol addiction treatment center in Worcester, MA, before experiencing the trauma of alcohol poisoning. Contact Washburn House today at 855.298.3104 to learn more about our services.
What Is Alcohol Poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning occurs when someone drinks a large amount of alcohol in a short period. It often accompanies binge drinking, which is defined as sustained or heavy drinking. That’s about four drinks for women and five drinks for men in two hours. One alcoholic drink is:
- 12 ounces of beer
- 8 ounces of liquor
- 5 ounces of wine
- 11/2 ounces of distilled liquor, such as gin, rum, tequila, whiskey, vodka
Four or five beers may not seem like much, but your liver would disagree. The liver can only metabolize one serving of alcohol per hour. Drinking more than that can quickly lead to dangerously high blood alcohol levels (BAC levels) before any physical signs of intoxication are obvious. That’s why it’s critical to recognize the symptoms of alcohol poisoning as soon as possible.
Alcohol poisoning can also occur if someone ingests too much ethanol from household cleaners or another source, though this is rare. A sudden influx of alcohol in the bloodstream creates a toxic effect that can be fatal. Immediate medical attention is crucial for anyone presenting symptoms of alcohol poisoning.
7 Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning
A person’s blood concentration continues to rise even if the person is passed out. That means you may not notice all of these signs of alcohol poisoning right away, but don’t wait to seek medical attention. Even one of these symptoms of alcohol poisoning is enough to indicate that a person needs help.
1. Decreased Body Temperature
Alcohol dilutes the concentration of oxygen in the blood, so you might notice blue-tinged lips or pale skin on someone who has alcohol poisoning. These are early signs of hypothermia, where the body temperature drops below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Alcohol pulls water from the body’s cells, leading to system-wide dehydration. Severe dehydration can cause several serious health concerns, including:
- Brain damage
- Kidney failure
- Organ damage
Alcohol affects the nervous system, meaning the gag reflex shuts down. This puts someone with alcohol poisoning at a greater risk of choking. They may also aspirate, or inhale, vomit into their lungs.
4. Irregular Breathing
An impaired nervous system can also affect heart rate and breathing. Because alcohol slows down the nervous system, breathing can become slower than normal. In extreme cases, the person may stop breathing altogether. As such, it is critical not to leave the person alone. If the brain goes too long without oxygen, it can result in permanent damage.
5. Loss of Coordination
It doesn’t take much alcohol for the nervous system to slow down. Besides cutting off the gag reflex and slowing down breathing, this can also impact normal brain function and reaction time. It’s the primary reason drinking and driving are a life-threatening combination.
6. Low Blood Sugar
Alcohol provides energy from calories, but it does not provide nutrients. Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach can greatly increase the chances of experiencing low blood sugar. If blood sugar levels get too low, they can lead to seizures.
Alcohol in any amount can upset the stomach. Too much alcohol can be very taxing on the digestive system. This equals:
Vomiting can be especially dangerous if someone with alcohol poisoning has lost their gag reflex.
When Someone Shows Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning: Do’s and Don’ts
If you notice someone experiencing any one of the distress signals above, call 9-1-1 immediately, and follow these precautions:
- Keep them awake
- Make them drink water unless they’ve lost the function of their gag reflex
- Lay them on their side if the person is unconscious
- Keep them warm with blankets and additional clothing to prevent hypothermia
- Monitor their symptoms of alcohol poisoning and breathing pattern
To reduce the risks of alcohol poisoning, do not let them fall asleep. If you do, monitoring their condition becomes increasingly difficult. Contrary to popular belief, you should also not feed them coffee or other substances to keep them awake. This action can worsen dehydration. If you can avoid it, try not to move them around too much, as you risk the person vomiting. In addition, do not put into a cold shower. Their body temperature may decrease drastically, increasing their risk of hypothermia.
Preventing Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning
The best way to prevent symptoms of alcohol poisoning is to drink responsibly. It’s essential to recognize alcoholism for the dangers it causes. There are several steps that you can take to drink responsibly, such as:
- Pace yourself – If you’re drinking alcohol, it’s important to go slow. Sip your drinks and have no more than one alcoholic beverage per hour.
- Eat before drinking – A full stomach can help slow the absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream.
- Avoid drinking games – Playing drinking games can quickly lead to excessive alcohol consumption.
- Stop drinking before going to bed – It’s important to give your body time to metabolize the alcohol before going to sleep.
- Know your limit – Be aware of how much alcohol you can handle. If you’re feeling buzzed, it’s time to stop drinking.
- Don’t drink and drive – Never get behind the wheel of a car if you’ve been drinking. If you’re planning on drinking, designate a sober driver in advance.
If you find that you cannot control your drinking, you may be struggling with alcoholism. It’s important to seek professional help as soon as possible. There are many resources available to help you on your road to recovery, such as reaching out to Washburn House.
Seek Treatment at Washburn House
If you or someone you love is suffering from alcohol addiction, we urge you to seek professional help. Alcohol addiction is a serious problem that often requires medical detox and inpatient treatment. The sooner you get help, the better.
Suffering from alcohol addiction is not uncommon and does not make someone any less fun or sociable. It can, however, threaten their life. If you or someone you know has experienced alcohol poisoning symptoms, contact Washburn House. We have a program that’s right for you and your experience with alcohol abuse. Treatment may involve:
- Alcohol detox program in Massachusetts
- Men’s or women’s alcohol rehab in MA
- Residential or intensive outpatient program
- Extended care addiction treatment in Worcester
- Dual diagnosis treatment
Give us a call at 855.298.3104 today, and we’ll create a customized plan so you can continue to enjoy your life without risking it.