Poisoning by alcohol (methanol)

General or Other | Emergency Medicine | Poisoning by alcohol (methanol) (Disease)


In extreme cases, alcohol poisoning could stop you breathing, your heart could stop beating or you could choke on your own vomit.

Alcohol is a depressant, which means it slows down your brain’s functions. You might lose your inhibitions and your sense of balance. But it also affects the nerves that control your heartbeat, breathing and gag reflex (which is what stops you choking).

Causes and Risk factors

Acute alcohol poisoning is usually a result of binge drinking. Your body can process about one unit of alcohol an hour. 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.

Alcohol irritates the stomach, which causes vomiting – dangerous if somebody’s gag reflex isn’t working properly. People die from choking or accidentally inhaling vomit into their lungs.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Many of the traditional ‘cures’ for alcohol poisoning – giving someone black coffee, making them sick, leaving them to sleep it off – can do more harm than good. By recognising the signs of alcohol poisoning and knowing how to respond, you could save someone’s life.

Adults and children who have accidentally consumed methanol or isopropyl alcohol may need kidney dialysis — a mechanical way of filtering waste and toxins from your system — to speed the removal of alcohol from their bloodstream.


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