What is Alcohol Poisoning? Here’s All You Need to Know

What is alcohol poisoning1? How is it caused? What are its symptoms, and how to recover? These are a few questions that constantly cross over the minds of people who drink a lot or their near and dear ones.

Folks around the world enjoy a beer, wine, or liquor to celebrate or relax. The proverb- Excess of anything is bad, goes perfectly well with alcohol. Alcohol may be good and enjoyable only when taken in moderation. Before you think of drinking, you should know when to stop. If taken in excess or for a prolonged period, alcohol can be life-threatening. Let us discuss what is alcohol poisoning. We will also answer some of the queries about alcohol poisoning treatment2 and alcohol poisoning deaths.

1. What is Alcohol Poisoning?

Drinking sometimes and getting a hangover is quite casual. However, if not consumed in control may prove to be a disaster. Alcohol poisoning is a serious health issue and should not be ignored for long.

What exactly is alcohol poisoning? When consumed, any kind of alcohol, be it beer wine, or anything else is digested by the stomach and released into the bloodstream. This causes the blood alcohol level to rise, and subsequently, the liver functions to break down the excess alcohol.

When consumed in excess, extra pressure is put on the liver, and gradually they become dysfunctional in eliminating this poison from the body. Too much alcohol consumption can affect your breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and gag reflex, as well as put you in a coma and cause death.

Alcohol in the bloodstream acts as a depressant. It hinders the body’s normal functioning, affecting breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature. As blood alcohol levels rise, the depressant effect becomes more pronounced with the increase in the blood alcohol concentration. Intoxication from alcohol demands immediate medical attention. Seek medical help right away if you fear someone is suffering from alcohol poisoning.

2. Who is at risk?

The statistics of people dying from alcohol poisoning are at an all-time high. The primary victims of alcohol poisoning deaths in middle-aged men. It may be because of the mental confusion growing among men due to societal pressure or purely addiction.

Alcohol poisoning can be caused by a variety of circumstances, including:

  • Body type and weight
  • General well-being
  • Intake of food
  • Mixing of alcohol with other drugs
  • Amount of alcohol in your drinks
  • The rate at which alcohol is consumed
  • Level of alcohol tolerance

3. How Much Alcohol Can Kill You?

The harm caused by alcohol can vary from person to person. Alcohol can be particularly harmful in affecting a person’s mental state, and almost half of alcoholic deaths occur as a result of prolonged reliance on alcohol.

Unlike food, which can take hours to digest, alcohol is swiftly absorbed by the body – far faster than most other nutrients. Your liver is in charge of processing most of the alcohol you consume. And your body takes a lot longer to get rid of the booze you’ve consumed. The greater the danger of alcohol poisoning, the more you drink, especially in a short time.

4. Causes of Alcohol Poisoning

Since now we know what is alcohol poisoning, let us discuss what causes it. Alcohol poisoning occurs when there is too much alcohol in the blood. Alcohol overdose is another name for the illness. Blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) as a percentage is used to determine how much alcohol is in the blood.

Some trouble speaking and remembering things are common symptoms. It only takes a small amount of alcohol in the blood to trigger issues. Even 0.05% of alcohol can be termed as mild impairment. This is the official information provided in the study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

With the increase in this percentage, the effects of mild impairment get worse. The person may appear clumsy, and they may start to feel tired. Judgment and decision-making skills become very impaired. The person may suffer from blackouts. Lastly, the person is at risk, and the basic life support functions stop causing alcohol poisoning deaths.

Alcoholic beverages, mouthwash, culinary extracts, pharmaceuticals, and many home goods contain ethanol. Ethyl alcohol poisoning is caused by consuming too many alcoholic beverages in a short period.

Isopropyl alcohol (found in rubbing alcohol, moisturizers, and some household cleaners) and methanol or ethylene glycol (found in refrigerants, varnishes, and cleaners) can cause serious damage and require rapid medical intervention.

4.1 Binge Drinking

Binge drinking, defined as a pattern of heavy drinking in which a male consumes five or more alcoholic beverages in less than two hours, or a female consumes at least four drinks in less than two hours, is one of the leading causes of alcohol poisoning.

An alcohol binge can last many hours or several days. Overdosing on alcohol causes you to pass out. Even if you’re unconscious or have stopped drinking, alcohol continues to be delivered into your bloodstream from your stomach and intestines, and your blood alcohol level rises.

5. Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

Considering the gravity of the problem, it is necessary to under the common alcohol poisoning signs and symptoms. Some of them are:

  • The skin turns bluish-colored or chilly and clammy, particularly around the lips and fingernails.
  • Confusion, sluggish responses, a loss of coordination, or the inability to move are among the symptoms.
  • Unable to remain conscious
  • Hypothermia.
  • Pulse, heartbeat, or breathing irregularities (intervals of 10 seconds or more between breaths).
  • Problems with bladder or bowel control (incontinence).
  • Seizures, vomiting, or, choking
  • Strong alcohol odor.

6. How to Tell If Someone Has Any Alcohol in Their System?

There are two basic methods for determining a person’s blood alcohol content:

Breathalyzer: Alcohol passes through your bloodstream and into your lungs when you drink. It then evaporates into the lungs, and you exhale it. By measuring how much alcohol is detected in your breath as you blow into the breathalyzer, it can estimate your BAC.

Blood test: A lab technician uses a needle to extract a little bit of blood for a blood test. The technician then performs a BAC test. The blood test is most accurate six to twelve hours after you’ve had your last drink.

7. How Do You Treat Alcohol Poisoning?

If someone has been poisoned by alcohol, they should seek medical help soon. Healthcare practitioners will utilize the following in a medical setting:

  • IV fluids: Providers give intravenous drip to treat dehydration. Bubbles can also increase blood sugar levels.
  • Oxygen: Providers can use a nasal cannula to administer oxygen (flexible tube clipped to the nose). If a person has problems breathing, they may insert a tiny tube into the windpipe.
  • Stomach pumping: Toxins can be removed from the stomach with the help of a tube.
  • Blood filtration: If the kidneys aren’t up to the task, dialysis may be used to remove alcohol from the blood.

8. What to Do If a Person is Suffering From Alcohol Poisoning?

You can do several things to help someone who shows symptoms of alcohol poisoning3. Even if you don’t observe the traditional signs and symptoms, seek medical help right away if you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning.

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  • Immediately dial 911 or your local emergency number. Never assume that someone who has been poisoned by alcohol will sleep it off.
  • Be ready to share info. If you know, inform hospital or emergency workers of the type and amount of alcohol consumed, as well as when it occurred.
  • Don’t leave an unconscious person alone. Because alcohol poisoning alters the function of the gag reflex, a victim may choke on their vomit and become unable to breathe. While you wait for assistance, don’t try to force the victim to vomit since they may stop.
  • Assist someone who is vomiting. Attempt to keep them upright. If the person must lie down, ensure that their head is turned to the side to avoid choking. To avoid losing consciousness, try to keep the person alert.

9. How Do You Prevent Alcohol Poisoning?

Since now we know what is alcohol poisoning, let us discuss ways to prevent it.

Limit your alcohol consumption to avoid alcohol poisoning. You must be able to recognize what is the limit. If you or a companion is drinking, keep track of how much and how quickly you consume it. If a friend appears to be drinking excessively fast, attempt to intervene and limit how much more they can drink. The importance of moderation cannot be overstated. Avoid drinking games and limit yourself to one alcoholic beverage each hour.

9.1 Other Ways to Avoid Alcohol Poisoning:

If you really must drink, do it in moderation. Alcohol should always be consumed in moderation. For women of all ages and men over 65, it implies no more than one drink per day, and for males 65 and younger, no more than two drinks per day as pointed out by the Harvard School of Public Health. Take your time and savor your beverage when you’re ready.

Don’t drink if you’re hungry. Food in your stomach can help slow down the absorption of alcohol, but it won’t prevent alcohol poisoning if you’re binge drinking.

Make an effort to communicate with your adolescent. Discuss the dangers of alcohol, including excessive drinking, with your teenagers. Children who are warned about alcohol by their parents and who report having close relationships with their parents are less likely to start drinking, according to research.

Store products safely. If you have little children, keep alcohol-containing products out of their reach, such as cosmetics, mouthwashes, and prescriptions. Use child-proof bathroom and kitchen cupboards to keep household cleaners out of reach. In your garage or storage area, keep dangerous goods out of reach. Consider storing alcoholic beverages in a secure location.

Make an appointment for follow-up care. Ask about follow-up care if you or your kid has been treated for alcohol poisoning. Meeting with a health expert, especially one who specializes in chemical dependency, can help you avoid future binge drinking.

10. What Can Happen from Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning is a life-threatening condition. An alcoholic who consumes too much alcohol to the point of overdosing may experience the following symptoms:

  • Amnesia or convulsions( loss of memories)
  • Hypoglycemia4 (a condition where the glucose level is lower than normal)
  • Hypothermia5( condition when the body temperature falls below normal).
  • A heartbeat that is irregular or stops.
  • Consciousness loss could quickly result in death.
  • Severe vomiting can lead to dehydration, seizures, permanent brain damage, or death.

11. When Should I See a Doctor?

Call 911 straight away if a friend or loved one looks to be suffering from alcohol poisoning. The sooner patients receive care, the more probable catastrophic injury will be avoided.

Seek treatment if you or someone you know has a drinking problem. Alcohol use disorder and alcoholism can have terrible long-term consequences. Now is the time to get help before things worsen.

Before seeking medical treatment, you don’t need to experience all of the above indications or symptoms. A person who is unconscious or unable to be woken due to alcohol poisoning is at risk of dying.

You may be concerned about the implications for yourself, a friend, or a loved one, especially if you are under the age of 18. However, the repercussions of failing to seek appropriate assistance promptly might be far more catastrophic. It can be challenging to tell if someone is intoxicated enough to require medical attention, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

11.1 Complications

  • Choking: Alcohol can cause choking and vomiting. Because it suppresses your gag reflex, you’re more likely to choke on vomit if you pass out. Alcohol poisoning can lead to serious problems, such as:
  • Stopping breathing: Inhaling vomit into your lungs can cause a hazardous or fatal breathing pause (asphyxiation).   
  • Vomiting: It can cause severe dehydration, leading to dangerously low blood pressure and a high heart rate.
  • Seizures: If your blood sugar drops too low, you may experience seizures.
  • Hypothermia: Your body temperature can drop to dangerously low levels, resulting in cardiac arrest.
  • Irregular heartbeat: Alcohol poisoning can cause the heart to beat erratically or even stop.
  • Brain damage: Excessive alcohol use might result in irreparable brain damage.
  • Death: These issues can slowly lead to death.

Read more about The Long-Term Effects Of Consuming Alcohol On The Human Body.

12. What Is Alcohol Poisoning: Concluding words

All the above discussion can be summarized such that alcohol poisoning, alcohol overdose, or alcohol abuse are common problems faced by folks today. A person’s health can be at risk if vital life functions stop. As a result, medical intervention and taking prescription drugs for alcohol detox before it’s too late is a good idea.

Chronic Drinking Health Impacts Guide


  1. Kanny, Dafna, et al. “Vital signs: alcohol poisoning deaths-United States, 2010-2012.” MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 63.53 (2015): 1238-1242. ↩︎
  2. Gallagher, Nicholas, and Frank J. Edwards. “The diagnosis and management of toxic alcohol poisoning in the emergency department: a review article.” Advanced journal of emergency medicine 3.3 (2019). ↩︎
  3. Oster-Aaland, Laura, et al. “Alcohol poisoning among college students turning 21: Do they recognize the symptoms and how do they help?.” Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, Supplement 16 (2009): 122-130. ↩︎
  4. Cryer, Philip E., Joseph N. Fisher, and Harry Shamoon. “Hypoglycemia.” Diabetes care 17.7 (1994): 734-755. ↩︎
  5. Turk, Elisabeth E. “Hypothermia.” Forensic science, medicine, and pathology 6.2 (2010): 106-115. ↩︎

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