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Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

calendar June 11, 2021 user By Key To Recovery

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), around 2,000 people die from alcohol poisoning each year. Although it’s legal, alcohol is a drug that can easily put individuals’ lives in danger even if it’s a person’s first time drinking. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning can prevent an alcoholic seizure or alcoholic overdose.

Certain blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels put people in danger of alcohol poisoning. Certain factors can affect a person’s BAC level. This means that people are more or less likely to have a certain BAC after a specific amount of drinks.

There are many other factors that correlate to a person’s risk of alcohol poisoning overall. Alcoholism is one link to alcohol poisoning. That’s why it’s important to get help immediately for an alcohol addiction before any lasting damage happens. 

What Are Signs of Alcohol Poisoning? 

Unfortunately, the signs of alcohol poisoning may go unnoticed. In fact, many people with alcohol poisoning die because the people around them just think that they’re drunk. Identifying the following signs of alcohol poisoning can help individuals realize whether someone is drunk or in danger. 

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning: Confusion and Slowed Mental Ability 

When people are drunk, they might feel confused and their mental ability slows down significantly. However, this can also be a sign of alcohol poisoning.

The reason why this happens is that alcohol is a depressant drug that slows down the central nervous system (CNS). As a result, alcohol increases the amount of GABA in the brain. GABA is a neurotransmitter that impedes chemical messages.

Normally GABA works in tandem with other neurotransmitters to keep the brain and body functioning normally. Alcohol makes GABA more available for the brain to use, which slows down mental function. In turn, this causes people to feel relaxed and have slowed cognitive ability. This may appear as confusion or stupor. 

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning: Inability to Stay Conscious, Irregular Breathing, and Coma 

Alcohol Use Disorder and Alcohol PoisoningThis is a tell-tale sign of alcohol poisoning. This one clearly helps people distinguish the signs of alcohol poisoning versus just being drunk. Alcohol depresses many parts of the body’s systems. While dopamine is initially released, making individuals feel content, other chemicals are released as the body’s systems slow down.

Glutamate and adenosine are brain chemicals that are affected by alcohol poisoning. For instance, adenosine will build up as a person continues to drink alcohol. This chemical makes people feel sleepy. Additionally, glutamate plays a role in important bodily systems, like cardiac and respiratory function.

Alcohol makes it more difficult for glutamate and adenosine to do their jobs. Together, those with alcohol poisoning might not be able to stay awake and may even fall into a coma where they stop breathing. 

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning: Vomiting, Nausea, and Upset Stomach 

The brain and body generally fight to keep themselves alive. When an individual drinks to the point that it could result in death, the brain and body work together to help expel the alcohol. Typically, when a person has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.4 or more, the brain will signal the body to vomit. 

Alternatively, alcohol can cause motion sickness as well as an upset stomach. So these factors may contribute to an individual throwing up when they’re experiencing an alcohol overdose. The issue is that if a person is passed out and unable to wake up, they may choke on their own vomit and pass away. Also, alcohol impedes the gag reflex, which further complicates an overdose when it occurs. 

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning: Alcoholic Seizure 

When people with severe alcohol use disorders stop drinking cold turkey, they may experience alcoholic seizures. Yet, this can also happen to those without an alcohol use disorder. Drinking too much alcohol causes an influx of the chemical, insulin. While drinking can raise blood sugar levels, drinking too much can cause them to lower to dangerous depths. The lack of blood sugar can cause someone to have an alcoholic seizure if this happens. 

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning: Hypothermia and Cardiac Arrest 

There is the common misconception that alcohol helps make people stay warm when they drink it. Actually, research shows that alcohol does exactly the opposite. People that drink alcohol will ultimately have a low body core temperature. This could lead to hypothermia where the body loses more heat than it can produce heat. Low blood sugar makes it even more likely for someone to suffer from hypothermia, which makes alcohol even more dangerous.

When people have hypothermia, their skin and lips may be paler than normal or possibly blue-tinged. Additionally, they may appear shaky and faint. Individuals who see someone experiencing signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning such as this should receive medical assistance. 

How Long Does It Take For Alcohol To Kill You?

A BAC level of 0.6%-0.8% is high enough to kill you, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). That said, how long does it take for alcohol to kill you? It truly depends on how fast a person is drinking. If an individual drinks an excessive amount in a short period of time, it could kill you relatively quickly. Different signs of intoxication, including alcohol poisoning, are likely to happen depending upon a person’s BAC level after they drink.

The fact is that alcohol may not kill you in the moment after experiencing alcohol poisoning. But, another fact is that it could lead to permanent brain damage as a result. Before thinking how long does it take for alcohol to kill you, it’s important to realize that excessive alcohol use will ultimately kill you over time. 

The Science Behind Alcohol Poisoning 

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning?Alcohol poisoning happens because the body can’t break down the alcohol as quickly as a person is consuming it. The liver is the main organ that breaks down alcohol. It can do this at about one standard drink per hour. The NIAAA classifies a standard drink as 14 grams of pure alcohol, which can translate into approximately a standard-sized beer with 5% alcohol. A standard drink can also be translated into a 1.5 oz shot of liquor or a glass of wine with a 12% alcohol content.

When the liver can’t break down alcohol quickly enough, it builds up. Since alcohol is a depressant it will start to negatively affect the body overall, which is the catalyst for an alcohol overdose. 

What To Do If Someone Has an Alcohol Overdose 

  • Don’t waste any time – If you even suspect someone is suffering from alcohol poisoning, get help immediately. There’s a small window of time to help an individual avoid damage or death once they’re suffering from alcohol poisoning. The body will begin to shut down, and only medical professionals can assist (not cold showers or greasy food). 
  • Turn them on their side – People experiencing alcohol poisoning often vomit. Since they have virtually no gag reflex and are unconscious more likely than not, it’s crucial to turn them on their side. If not, they very well may vomit and choke on it. 
  • Don’t worry about getting in trouble for helping out – Sometimes people think that they may face legal repercussions if they’re drunk and try to get medical help. Laws, like the good Samaritan law, exist to protect individuals (within reason) who help individuals in situations such as these. Good Samaritan laws exist in every state, including Washington D.C., so there’s no reason to avoid getting help. This can be especially helpful for underage drinkers who fear getting in legal trouble. 
  • Stay with them – Alcohol poisoning can develop rapidly and dangerously. For this reason, it’s crucial to keep an eye on someone who has alcohol poisoning. This person’s condition could worsen quickly.

Alcohol Use Disorder and Alcohol Poisoning 

sign of alcohol poisoningIndividuals suffering from alcohol use disorders have many physical and mental health problems. Alcohol can wreck an individual’s body over time inside and out. For example, alcohol poisoning may kill someone before an alcohol use disorder does, but either can be deadly. On top of this, non-fatal alcohol poisoning can build up a person’s tolerance to alcohol if they continue to drink.

An alcohol use disorder is a severe chronic relapse disorder. People who suffer from alcoholism will need medical help in order to regain their lives and likely avoid an early death. Those with chronic drinking problems are susceptible to multiple forms of cancer as well as alcohol-related liver diseases. Alcohol detox and treatment facilities can reverse the damage of alcohol use disorders and give individuals the tools that they need to remain sober every day. 

Alcohol Poisoning Reveals a Need For Alcohol Use Disorder Treatment 

Surviving alcohol poisoning is lucky. So lucky that it might happen again if you neglect to get treatment. If you’re blacking out and can’t stop drinking despite attempts to abstain, it’s time to seek help.

The Key to Recovery offers alcohol use disorder detox and treatment in California. We show our clients that there is a way to stop drinking and for good. To learn more about the programs that we offer, contact us now. Sobriety can start with just a call.