Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

Drinking is a popular pastime in American culture. It happens at colleges, in bars, or even at home in front of a TV marathon. Many people binge drink or drink heavily without even realizing it.  These habits can have costly effects and by time a person realize it’s an issue, it may be too late, and they could be suffering from an overdose or alcohol poisoning.

What is alcohol?

Alcohol is a system depressant. When it is ingested, people can suffer impairments in memory, decision making, and judgement. This happens with short term use alone. However, with long term use and binge drinking, the risks increase. Destruction to relationships can occur and personality changes and mental health issues might crop up as well. There can also be blackout episodes and damage to organs, such as the liver, heart, and brain. One of the biggest risks of drinking can be alcohol poisoning.

What is alcohol poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning is when the blood alcohol level is so high that the body and or brain cannot function properly.  Symptoms of poisoning include:

  • labored breathing
  • non-responsive
  • confused and disoriented (fix)
  • unconsciousness
  • extremely cold
  • Blue tint

These occur because breathing, judgement, consciousness and all other functions are controlled by brain and the central nervous system.

More symptoms that need to be watched for are:

  • loss of respiration
  • heart attack
  • brain damage due to excessive fluid loss or dehydration
  • choking (gag reflex is not working)
  • seizures
  • coma
  • death

Alcohol Poisoning The Next Day

Sometimes the symptoms of alcohol poisoning are not apparent until the next day. This is because even when a person stops drinking, the blood alcohol content can still keep increasing. Alcohol is still being digested and afterward flows into the blood stream. It is at this point that the Blood Alcohol Content rises. The liver is still is processing and filtering alcohol out of the blood as well, but and can only eliminate about one unit per hour. Blood Alcohol Content at .15 and over, can be extremely dangerous and impairing for an individual and others around them. Sometimes alcohol poisoning can be mistaken for a hangover. However, there are different symptoms of a hangover and alcohol poisoning. A hangover is marked by:

  • Intense Headache
  • Light and/or noise sensitivity
  • Vomiting, nausea
  • Hard time focusing
  • ​Reduced focus level
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Irritability

Alcohol Poisoning on the other hand has these next day symptoms:

  • Confusion
  • Breathing problems
  • Unclear Speech
  • Severe Vomiting
  • Hypothermia
  • No heartbeat
  • Impaired vision
  • Stomach discomfort or pain

What to do and what not to do

After noticing someone has alcohol poisoning, there are certain things that you should not do and certain things that may help save their life.

  • You should not let them be alone. At any time, they could stop breathing, suffer organ failure or any other number of things. Their BAC could continue to rise as well, and so it is imperative that someone is watching them. The best choice would be to take the person to get some help from a medical professional.
  • Do not allow them to drink anymore alcohol. The body is already overloaded with alcohol and cannot process at a healthy rate and any more alcohol could be detrimental. Additionally, giving them anything with caffeine could cause of dehydration which can be very dangerous for someone with alcohol poisoning. If a person can drink, then give them water as this will help them from becoming too dehydrated.
  • Many people feel that a cold shower helps to “sober” them up. However, since a person usually feels weak and fatigued and or still might have problems with balance and coordination, a shower may not be the best idea. Also, it might be possible for someone to drown in water if they pass out and no one is there. Fainting is the shower also carries the risk of bodily injury. Additionally, a cold shower lowers the body temperature which can already happen from alcohol poisoning

Every individual is different and process alcohol at a different rate. Body weight, metabolism, sex, age, tolerance, what is in the stomach and body, and amount of drinks all play a factor in how much alcohol is in the blood at any given time. Therefore, there is no set limit that defines alcohol poisoning. What may cause alcohol poisoning in one person, may not do the same in another person. This is why it is important for each individual to watch their own drinking and limit their intake to safe or recommended levels. Of course, if an individual never drinks then they are guaranteed not to ever experience alcohol poisoning!


Additional References: DrinkawareBAC CalculatorCareHappiness.comMedical News Today