Alcohol Poisoning

alcohol poisoning

Here’s What You Should Know About Alcohol Poisoning

If you believe someone has alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately.

We’ve all seen someone drink more than they should. But at what point can that become life-threatening? In all honesty, it’s a pretty thin line.

A few years ago, I was at a New Year’s Eve party with a few of my friends. As the night went on, things seemed pretty typical. We were all listening to music, talking about the past year, and just enjoying each other’s company.

Hours passed and the night was winding down. A group of us noticed that one of our friends had been quiet for quite some time.

He was passed out in a chair in the corner of the room and didn’t respond to any of our attempts to wake him up. We also noticed his breathing was slow, and one of us checked his pulse — it was really low. It was at that moment we knew what was happening.

He’d drunk to the point of alcohol poisoning.

We called 911 immediately, and thankfully, it turned out to be just in time.

In hindsight, I realized that many people simply forget about the dangers that come along with excessive drinking. But the reality is that it’s a dangerous game. To put it simply, you could be gambling with your health or, in some cases, putting yourself at risk of hospitalization or worse.

In New Mexico, excessive drinking results in 1,042 deaths and 31,129 years of potential life lost each year.

Let’s take a look at the dangers of alcohol poisoning and how you can prevent it.

What Is Alcohol Poisoning?

If you believe someone has alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately.

According to the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), alcohol poisoning happens when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain that control basic life-support functions — such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control — begin to shut down.

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Being unable to remain conscious (passing out)
  • Slow breathing or gaps in breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Low body temperature
  • Clammy skin
  • Dulled responses

It’s important to remember that no one should be left alone if alcohol poisoning is suspected, or if they’re showing any of the symptoms listed above.

The DDAP also explains, “It is dangerous to assume that an unconscious person will be fine by sleeping it off. Alcohol acts as a depressant, hindering signals in the brain that control automatic responses such as the gag reflex. Alcohol also can irritate the stomach, causing vomiting. With no gag reflex, a person who drinks to the point of passing out is in danger of choking. This, in turn, could lead to death when someone chokes on, or breathes in, their own vomit. Even if the drinker survives, an alcohol overdose can lead to long-lasting brain damage.”

Also, anyone can drink to the point of alcohol poisoning. Anyone who tells you otherwise simply isn’t informed.

However, if you binge drink, you’re more at risk of developing alcohol poisoning. This includes people who drink to a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. This usually occurs when a woman drinks four or more alcoholic beverages within two hours, or when a man drinks five or more in that amount of time.

Younger people also tend to be at higher risk of developing alcohol poisoning because they often binge drink.

A Look at Excessive Drinking

Excessive drinking is one of the main culprits when it comes to alcohol poisoning.

There are two forms of excessive drinking, binge drinking and heavy drinking. Binge drinking, which we talked about earlier, is drinking to the point of a 0.08% blood alcohol concentration. Again, this usually occurs after women have four or more drinks in two hours, or when men have five or more drinks in two hours.

Heavy drinking occurs when women have three or more drinks in a day or seven or more drinks in a week. For men, heavy drinking occurs when four or more drinks are consumed in a day or 14 or more drinks in a week.

The easiest way to avoid excessive drinking is by not drinking at all. The National Institutes of Health provides a list of people who shouldn’t drink at all, including:

  • Those planning to drive or operate heavy machinery
  • Those planning to engage in activities that require coordination, skill, or alertness
  • Those taking certain medications
  • Those with certain medical conditions
  • Those recovering from alcohol use disorder
  • Those pregnant or planning to become pregnant
  • Those younger than 21

If you do plan on drinking, it’s best to drink in moderation to lower your risk of negative health effects.

Drinking in Moderation

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “To reduce the risk of alcohol-related harms, the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to two drinks or less in a day for men or one drink or less in a day for women, on days when alcohol is consumed.”

“The Guidelines also do not recommend that individuals who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason and that if adults of legal drinking age choose to drink alcoholic beverages, drinking less is better for health than drinking more.”

Unfortunately, the CDC reports that two in three adult drinkers admit to drinking above moderate levels at least once a month.

While many continue to think that moderate drinking may have some health benefits, recent studies have shown that may just not be true.

What Is Alcohol Use Disorder?

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a serious health issue that causes strong cravings to drink, the inability to stop drinking once you’ve started, and irritability when you’re not drinking, according to the United States National Library of Medicine.

You may be battling AUD if in the past year you:

  • Felt strong urges to drink
  • Ended up drinking more than you expected
  • Ended up drinking longer than you expected
  • Spent a lot of time recovering from drinking
  • Kept drinking despite the negative effects it was having on your life
  • Quit pursuing activities you once enjoyed because of alcohol
  • Found yourself in dangerous situations because of alcohol
  • Had to drink more to feel the effects of alcohol
  • Had problems at work or school because of alcohol
  • Had the urge to quit drinking but couldn’t
  • Experienced withdrawal symptoms when not drinking

These are all telltale signs of the condition. If you’re having any of these symptoms, there’s a good chance you’re battling AUD.

You Have the Strength to Overcome AUD

There is more to life than drinking alcohol. If alcohol has taken control of your life, if you’ve tried to stop drinking before and failed, or if you just want to live healthier, help is out there.

At some point, we all need someone there to catch our fall. Through professional treatment, plenty of people have been able to leave alcohol in their past. You can, too.

In life, our setbacks are simply opportunities for the ultimate comeback. Do not lose hope, and keep pushing forward. You owe it to yourself.

Right here, right now, you have the chance to take the first step on the path toward recovery. In the end, it’s worth it.

Shadow Mountain Recovery Is Here for You

At Shadow Mountain Recovery, we understand your situation is unique, which is why we will create an alcohol use disorder treatment plan just for you.

Our inpatient alcoholism detox and rehab program will address the symptoms of your addiction and daily-life contributors that may affect it. We use evidence-based treatments like cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavior therapy to help change thoughts and behaviors that lead to unwanted or unhealthy habits. We also offer recreational activities as a healthy alternative to alcohol.

Call Shadow Mountain today at (800) 203-8249 to get started on your recovery journey.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens to your body when you have alcohol poisoning?

If someone appears to have alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately.

There are plenty of things that can happen to your body when you have alcohol poisoning. First of all, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP), alcohol poisoning happens when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain that control basic life-support functions — such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control — begin to shut down.

The symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Seizures
  • Being unable to remain conscious (passing out)
  • Slow breathing or gaps in breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Low body temperature
  • Clammy skin
  • Dulled responses

At what level does alcohol poisoning occur?

According to the University of Notre Dame, alcohol poisoning and loss of consciousness (passing out) tend to occur at blood alcohol concentration levels between 0.250% and 0.399%. It’s difficult to give an estimate as to how many drinks it takes to get to this point since everyone is different. Facts such as body weight, body fat percentage, and gender all come into play.

What is alcohol use disorder?

Alcohol use disorder, also known as alcoholism, is a medical condition that causes strong cravings to drink, the inability to quit drinking once you’ve started, and irritability when not drinking. Alcohol use disorder is common in the United States with millions living with the condition on a daily basis.