HomeHealthy LivingWhat is Alcohol Poisoning?

What is Alcohol Poisoning?


Alcohol Poisoning is a potentially fatal condition that arises as a consequence of drinking an excessive amount of alcohol within a short period of time. When the level of alcohol in blood increases over the recommended maximum level, an individual is at risk of alcohol poisoning. The person then starts showing the symptoms of disorientation, labored breathing, decreased temperature, or can even slip into a coma.

Alcohol Poisoning can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Children or adults may also unintentionally drink household products containing alcohol that can lead to alcohol poisoning.

What are the Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning?

Blood Alcohol Concentration or BAC is the measure of alcohol levels in the blood of an individual. A sober person would have a BAC of 0.0, while a BAC of 0.08 is considered to be intoxicated. BAC of 0.40 can be fatal.

Symptoms of mild alcohol poisoning include:

  • Disorientation.
  • Confusion.
  • A sudden drop in body temperature.
  • Abnormal or slow breathing.
  • Vomiting.
  • Stupor.

Symptoms of severe alcohol poisoning include:

  • Heart attack.
  • Severe lung infections.
  • Dehydration that may potentially lead to brain damage
  • Seizures due to a sudden drop in glucose levels.
  • Might stop breathing.
  • A sudden drop in body temperature.
  • Pale skin with a blue tinge.
  • BAC of 0.40 or higher can potentially lead to the onset of coma.

If any of the above-mentioned symptoms are detected in a person, it is advisable to seek medical help immediately.

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What are the Causes of Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol in the form of ethanol is used in many alcoholic beverages; ingestion of these products in large quantities within a short period of time can lead to alcohol poisoning.  Isopropyl alcohol and methanol in common household items like mouthwash, some cooking condiments, medications, and cleaning products can cause toxic poisoning that may require immediate medical attention.

The liver filters out alcohol, a toxin, from the body in specific time intervals. When a person consumes excessive amounts of alcohol within a short period of time, the liver fails to filter out the excess toxins causing it to fail. When the rate of filtration decreases, the alcohol present in the bloodstream hampers the normal functioning of the body resulting in many complications.

An important cause of poisoning is binge drinking among individuals. Binge drinking is a pattern of drinking too much alcohol within a very short period of time. In the case of a man, if he drinks more than 5 alcoholic beverages within 2 hours, it can be termed as binge drinking. For a woman, however, it is 4 glasses of alcoholic drink within 2 hours. Binge drinking results in an increased level of alcohol concentration in the bloodstream since the body absorbs alcohol much faster than nutrients. This higher level of alcohol concentration causes the liver to filter out the toxins inefficiently and thus becomes fatal.

Alcohol poisoning may also occur in individuals who are under certain medications. Drinking while under prescribed medication may lead to fatal outcomes.

What are the Possible Treatments Options?

Since alcohol poisoning can potentially be fatal, it is recommended to seek medical help immediately. While help arrives, the following assistance can be provided:

  • It is important to keep the person conscious. 
  • Check for potential choking triggers and loosen any tight clothing especially around the neck and chest areas.
  • Try giving water to the patient, if the patient can drink it. Alcohol tends to dehydrate the body. Avoid giving caffeinated drinks like tea, coffee, and soft drinks. Caffeine may lead to dehydration.
  • Try to restrict any movement. Do not let the intoxicated person walk or run.
  • Put the person in a comfortable resting position, If the person appears to be unconscious.
  • Keep the person in a sitting position.

At the medical center, the person may be subjected to the following:

  • A tube might be inserted into their windpipe to facilitate normal breathing and reduce the risk of choking.
  • The person would be given drips for rehydration.
  • In some cases, the stomach may be pumped to flush out fluids with the help of a tube.
  • In a few cases, dialysis may be conducted for blood filtration.

During the recovery process of the person, he/she may experience anxiety, nausea, stomach cramps, headaches, and in some cases, tremors.

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What are the Associated Risk Factors?

There are numerous risk factors for alcohol poisoning. Some of them include:

  • Overall state of health of the concerned individual.
  • Body weight and body mass index of the concerned individual.
  • The alcohol tolerance level of the body.
  • Intake of other intoxicants or prescribed drugs.
  • Intake of food.
  • The alcohol percentage in the beverage.
  • The amount and rate of alcohol consumption.

What are the Complications Associated with Alcohol Poisoning?

Heavy alcohol consumption within a short period of time may lead to severe complications. Some of them are:

  • Choking. Alcohol induces nausea that might lead to vomiting. It also suppresses your gag reflex, this might lead to choking especially if you have  passed out.
  • Dehydration. Alcohol leads to severe dehydration which in turn may cause low blood pressure and rapid heart rate.
  • Seizures. Excessive alcohol consumption can lead to seizures.
  • Abnormal Heartbeat. Your heartbeat might get irregular or even stop
  • Decreased Body Temperature.
  • Brain Damage. Alcohol poisoning may lead to irreversible brain damage.
  • Coma and Death. Alcohol poisoning may cause the onset of coma and death as well.

What are the Necessary Preventive Measures?

Consumption of excessive alcohol on a regular basis impacts the body in a number of ways. Drinking too much can affect the functionality of your liver, endocrine system, immune system, and can also result in behavioral changes.

Here are a few ways to prevent alcohol poisoning.

  • Consume alcohol in moderation. Drinking alcohol slowly in small amounts helps the body flush it out efficiently. The recommended safe amount of alcohol for men is less than two drinks a day and one drink for women.
  • Avoid drinking on an empty stomach. Always have a proper meal before consuming alcohol. Keeping your stomach full may help in reduced absorption of alcohol by your body
  • Keep yourself hydrated by drinking water
  • Avoid drinking alcohol when you are under medications.
  • Avoid drinking games that might lead you to binge drink.
  • Teach yourself and your loved ones on the dangers of binge drinking and consuming too much alcohol.
  • Keep alcoholic beverages out of reach from children
  • Store household products containing alcohol carefully.


Consuming alcohol in moderation is the key to preventing alcohol poisoning. Since every individual is unique an reacts differently to alcohol, it is imperative for everyone to be aware of the risks and benefits posed by alcohol on their bodies. Being aware of the dangers of alcohol consumption can help the individual in the long run. Drinking responsibly and in accordance with their health is what healthy living is all about.

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