By Steph Sianko, MA, LADC
Alcohol poisoning, also known as alcohol overdose is caused by high amounts of alcohol being consumed in a short amount of time. The risk of alcohol poisoning varies by gender, ethnicity, age, amount of food consumed, tolerance, rate of consumption, and use of other drugs. Binge drinking is more common for college students and those under the age of 20 putting them at a higher risk of poisoning.
Alcohol is a depressant that is absorbed quickly in the human body. Even though it is absorbed quickly, it takes longer for alcohol to be processed. When alcohol has stopped being consumed, the alcohol level will continue to increase in the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. When there is an excess of alcohol in the bloodstream, breathing, heart rate, and body temperature can be negatively affected. It is important to know that alcohol poisoning can be fatal and can occur even before passing out. Drinking coffee, sleeping it off, walking it off, and/or taking a cold shower are not effective methods for reversing the effects of alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning should be considered an emergency because not only can it lead to death, but choking, severe dehydration, and brain damage as well.
Seek medical help immediately if someone has any of the following symptoms:
- Slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
- Irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths)
- Hypothermia (low body temperature)
- Blueish skin color or paleness
- Cannot be awakened, unconscious
What to do in an emergency:
- Call 911
- Let the medical professionals know when the alcohol was consumed and the amount
- Do not leave the person alone
- Try to keep the person awake
- If they are vomiting, don’t allow them to stay on their back. Sit them upright.
Steph Sianko, MA, LADC is an IOP addiction counselor at The Pride institute. For more information, go to www.pride-institute.com.