What is alcohol poisoning?

Alcohol Poisoning

What is alcohol poisoning?

When someone has alcohol poisoning it means that they have consumed a dangerous or toxic amount of alcohol over a fairly short period of time. Their blood alcohol levels are so high it is considered poisonous. Someone with alcohol poisoning can become extremely confused, unresponsive, disoriented, have shallow breathing, and can even pass out, go into a coma or die. Alcohol poisoning can be life-threatening and usually requires a trip to the hospital.

What causes alcohol poisoning?

Binge drinking usually is the cause of alcohol poisoning, although, alcohol poisoning can happen accidentally when somebody drinks household products that contain alcohol.

When someone drinks alcohol the liver has to filter out the alcohol, a toxin, from their blood. Alcohol gets absorbed much quicker than food this means that alcohol reaches the blood much quicker than anything else. And the liver can only process a limited amount of alcohol before alcohol just begins circulating throughout the body waiting to be filtered. The liver can handle about one unit of alcohol every hour. So if someone drinks to units of alcohol in one hour this extra unit will be in the bloodstream until the liver can filter it. So the faster someone drinks the higher their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) becomes. If someone drinks too fast then they can end up spiking their BAC dangerously high and this is when alcohol poisoning happens.

When someone brings their BAC up very quickly it can affect them mentally and physically. For instance, breathing, heartbeat, and gag reflex all can become impaired as well as the nerves. Someone who brings their BAC up very high can become breathless, start choking or have an irregular heart rhythm.

So what are the signs of alcohol poisoning?

These signs and symptoms may indicate that someone is going from drunk to having alcohol poisoning or that they already have alcohol poisoning:

  • Confusion
  • Hypothermia
  • Pale skin, sometimes with a blue tint to it
  • The person is unresponsive
  • The person passes out
  • Unusual breathing
  • Very slow breathing
  • Vomiting

In very severe cases of alcohol poisoning a person might stop breathing all together or a heart attack could occur. There is also a risk of someone with alcohol poisoning choking on their own vomit. Also, if the individual with alcohol poisoning loses too much fluid there is a risk of brain damage due to severe dehydration. If blood glucose levels drop too low there is also a chance of fits and seizures with alcohol poisoning.  If alcohol poisoning is very serious the person can go into a coma and eventually die.

What to do if someone has alcohol poisoning.

If someone has alcohol poisoning 911 should be called.  This is the safest and surest way to get someone with alcohol poisoning the help they need. In the meantime certain things can be done such as:

  • Keep the individual awake
  • Try to keep the person sitting up not lying down
  • If they are able to drink give them water
  • If the person is unconscious put them in the recovery position and continue checking if they are breathing
  • Don’t  give them coffee, this can worsen dehydration
  • Don’t lie them on their back
  • Don’t give them more alcohol
  • Don’t make them walk

And last but not least if someone has alcohol poisoning call for HELP.

Sources: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alcohol-poisoning/DS00861

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