Updated: Mar 1, 2021
WHAT IS ALCOHOL POISONING?
Alcohol poisoning, also known as alcohol overdose, commonly occurs when you consume too much alcohol and your body can no longer handle it. The excessive amount of alcohol in your bloodstream causes negative effects on your brain and can adversely affect your breathing, temperature, and heart rate.
Though a lot less common, you can also get alcohol poisoning by accidentally consuming ethanol in other forms such as household products.
IS ALCOHOL POISONING JUST A BAD HANGOVER?
No, alcohol poisoning and a hangover are two very different things. Hangover symptoms occur after your blood alcohol content has dropped significantly or is at zero. Alcohol poisoning can occur even while you’re still consuming alcohol, and can escalate pretty quickly into more complications.
Hangovers, though unpleasant, are harmless and go away on their own within a day or so in comparison to alcohol poisoning, which can be life-threatening and could have longer-lasting effects on your body.
WHAT HAPPENS TO YOUR BODY WHEN YOU EXPERIENCE ALCOHOL POISONING?
Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it primarily works by slowing down your brain and nervous system.
When you are experiencing alcohol poisoning, the following can happen to your body:
Loss of balance and coordination as your brain functions slow down
Stomach irritation, causing one to vomit
Impairment of muscle control and gag reflex, leading to choking on vomit
Irregularity in your breathing and heartbeat
Potentially dangerous low body temperature
Drastically low blood sugar
HOW MUCH ALCOHOL CAN CAUSE ALCOHOL POISONING?
The amount of alcohol it takes for a person to experience alcohol poisoning varies largely. It depends on several factors such as one’s size and weight, whether they’ve eaten recently, other substances you may have taken with the alcohol, the percentage of alcohol in your drinks, the amount of alcohol you consumed and the rate you consumed it, your alcohol tolerance level, and your overall health.
There’s no definite way to determine just how much alcohol is too much, and so it is always important to be very responsible with alcohol consumption.
WHAT ARE THE SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ALCOHOL POISONING?
The signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning could start as mild but gradually turn worse depending on the severity of the poisoning.
Some mild signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning are as follows:
Slurred speech and general confusion
Smelling like alcohol
Poor balance and coordination
More serious symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
Very slow heartbeat
Very low body temperature
Difficulty staying awake
Alcohol poisoning could also lead to life-threatening complications such as:
Inability to breathe
Choking on your vomit
In severe cases, and if untreated, alcohol poisoning can lead to death.
HOW IS ALCOHOL POISONING TREATED?
If someone has alcohol poisoning, it is important to first call emergency medical help. Alcohol poisoning patients may need lifesaving treatment right away. Once in a medical setting, healthcare professionals will:
Provide intravenous (IV) fluids to treat dehydration. These fluids can also increase blood sugar levels.
Provide oxygen using a nasal cannula (flexible tube clipped to the nose). They may put a small tube into the windpipe if a person has trouble breathing.
Do stomach pumping. Using a tube, healthcare providers can clear the stomach of toxins.
Start dialysis to filter the toxins from your blood if your kidneys fail.
If alcohol poisoning is not as severe, meaning the person is conscious, and emergency medical help does not arrive, it is imperative that you:
Stay with them, checking often to make sure they are still conscious.
Make sure that they stay on their side, not on their back.
Before you touch them, tell them exactly what you are going to do so they are aware.
Be aware of any signs of aggression.
Do not ridicule, judge, threaten, or try to counsel them.
Remain calm and be firm.
Avoid communicating feelings of anxiety or anger.
Keep them quiet and comfortable.
Don't give them food, drink, or medication of any kind.
Be prepared to administer CPR.
Remember that a person who has passed out may never regain consciousness, and there is a serious risk that death could occur.
CAN DRINKING WATER FLUSH OUT ALCOHOL?
It is a common misconception that drinking copious amounts of water when intoxicated washes out the alcohol in your system. This is not the case. Alcohol is not simply “flushed out” of your system. The only way to get rid of alcohol from your body is for it to be slowly digested or broken down by your liver.
What water does is that it flushes out the toxic components of alcohol that the liver has broken down. Since drinking alcohol makes you dehydrated, drinking water also helps with rehydration.
CAN YOU GO TO JAIL FOR ALCOHOL POISONING?
Experiencing alcohol poisoning alone does not have any legal consequences as it is an emergency medical condition that needs to be treated, and not a felony. However, what you do while you are under the influence of alcohol can have legal ramifications. You cannot go to jail for experiencing alcohol poisoning, but you can go to jail for doing activities you should not be doing while drunk, such as driving.
GET HELP IN AVOIDING ALCOHOL POISONING
There is no way to determine how much alcohol can cause an overdose. Because of this, you must do what it takes to prevent yourself from even going near that breaking point. If you or someone you know is abusing alcohol, it is never too late to start recovery.
Here at Recovery Blvd, we can help guide you away from experiencing the dangerous effects of alcohol abuse.
Our high-quality services and programs include:
Advanced Relapse Prevention
Substance Abuse Counseling
With us, you can start a new journey towards a better tomorrow with the right amount of help and care.
If you would like to know more about Recovery Blvd, please call us at (866) 231-3007. You can also visit our alcohol rehab center in Portland at 1316 SE 12th Avenue, Portland, OR 97214, to book an appointment.
Disclaimer: This post serves a strictly educational use. It does not reflect the services, products, or therapeutic approaches of this establishment or its healthcare practitioners. The purpose of this blog is not to advertise the products, services, or therapeutic approaches of any other establishment that may be associated with this site. About safe or legal services, products, and therapies, recommendations ought to be given by a qualified professional on a case to case basis.