Alcohol Poisoning

Chest | Emergency Medicine | Alcohol Poisoning (Disease)


Alcohol intoxication or drunkenness, is a physiological condition that occurs when a person has a high level of ethanol (alcohol) in the blood. Alcohol poisoning is a serious problem and sometimes can be deadly. It’s a consequence of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Drinking too much too quickly can affect your breathing, heart rate and gag reflex and potentially lead to coma and death.

Alcohol poisoning symptoms include: confusion, stupor, vomiting, seizures, slow breathing, less than eight breaths a minute, irregular breathing, blue-tinged skin or pale skin, low body temperature (hypothermia), unconsciousness (passing out), and cant be roused. Unlike food, which can take hours to digest, alcohol is absorbed quickly by your body — long before most other nutrients. But, it takes a lot more time for your body to get rid of the alcohol youve consumed.

Causes and Risk factors

Acute alcohol poisoning is usually a result of binge drinking. Most alcohol is processed by your liver, and it takes about one hour for your liver to process (metabolize) the alcohol in one drink. If you drink a lot in a short space of time, the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream (blood alcohol concentration or BAC) may become dangerously high. This can stop your body from working properly.

A number of factors can increase your risk of alcohol poisoning, including: age, sex, size and weigh, overall health, food consumption, drug use, tolerance level, type of alcohol.

Diagnosis and Treatment

In addition to checking for visible signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning, blood tests to check blood alcohol levels and identify other signs of alcohol toxicity, such as low blood sugar necessary. A urine test also may help to confirm a diagnosis of alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol poisoning treatment usually involves supportive care while your body rids itself of the alcohol. This typically includes: careful monitoring, prevention of breathing or choking problems, oxygen therapy, fluids given through a vein (intravenously) to prevent dehydration and use of thiamin and glucose, as needed....