Signs of Alcohol Overdose
Alcohol overdose, commonly known as alcohol poisoning, occurs when an individual consumes too much alcohol, overwhelming the body’s ability to break down the alcohol and clear it from the bloodstream. As a result, blood alcohol content (BAC) rises and the brain can begin shutting down.
Alcohol overdose is commonly caused by binge drinking, defined as 5 or more drinks in 2 hours for a male and 4 or more drinks in 2 hours for a female. However, alcohol overdose can occur outside of binge drinking. Age, weight, drinking experience and tolerance level, gender, amount of food eaten, overall health, rate of consumption, and the percentage of alcohol in the drinks can all affect whether or not alcohol consumption can become deadly.
When someone drinks too much, the first symptoms are often nausea, vomiting, clouded judgment, and decreased coordination. Individuals in the early phases of overdose are at risk for making dangerous decisions, participating in unsafe sex, or acting out violently. As BAC rises, it can significantly impair the user’s speech, memory, coordination, attention, reaction time, and balance. Users may experience confusion or blackouts. Even after an individual passes out or loses consciousness, BAC can continue to rise as alcohol is released into the bloodstream from the stomach and intestines. At a certain point, the brain can begin to shut down.
Symptoms of alcohol poisoning may include mental confusion, a stupor in which the user is conscious but unresponsive, and an inability to wake up. Vomiting is another common sign of alcohol poisoning. When an individual loses consciousness, alcohol can overwhelm the gag reflex, putting him or her at risk of choking on vomit and dying of asphyxiation. Look out for signs of low or irregular breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute/10 or more seconds between breaths). Dehydration, seizures, and hypothermia are all symptoms of alcohol poisoning. Hypothermia symptoms include a low body temperature and pale or bluish skin. Alcohol overdose can cause a coma, brain damage, or death.
If someone you know is exhibiting signs of alcohol overdose, do not wait for every symptom to appear before seeking medical attention. When in doubt, always call for help. Do not let your friend or loved one try to sleep it off, as BAC can continue to rise to fatal levels. Cold showers, hot coffee, walking around, and forced vomiting do not help reverse overdose and can actually put the individual at greater risk of harm. If an individual is vomiting, try to keep them upright and awake to reduce the risk of choking.
Call 911 and report any information you have on how much alcohol was consumed and when. This can help medical professionals treat alcohol poisoning promptly. Without proper treatment, a user’s heart rate or breathing may slow or stop, hypoglycemia can lead to seizures, and severe dehydration can cause permanent brain damage or death.
The long term risks of alcohol abuse and overdose include high blood pressure, stroke, pancreatitis, depression, dementia, infertility, and cancer of the liver, mouth, head, neck, breast, or bowels. If you or a loved one is exhibiting signs of alcoholism, please contact The Owl’s Nest today.