Alcohol Overdose. Do you know what an alcohol overdose or alcohol poisoning is? Do you know
what to do for someone who is suffering from alcohol poisoning?
As reported in the research literature, roughly 50,000 people suffer from alcohol poisoning each year in the
United States. Not only this but once every week in the U.S. someone needlessly dies from an alcohol overdose.
Knowing how to identify the common alcohol overdose signs and symptoms and responding promptly to such "signals"
(by calling 911 and asking for immediate medical assistance) can help prevent a fatal alcohol overdose.
Please note: the terms "alcohol overdose" and "alcohol poisoning" mean the same thing.
Overdosing on Alcohol is 100% Preventable
Perhaps the saddest part regarding an alcohol overdose, particularly when a person loses his or her life is
this: alcohol poisoning in 100 per cent avoidable. How, you ask? A person can avoid an alcohol overdose either by
always drinking in moderation or by total abstinence.
Alcohol Metabolism and Alcohol Elimination
Alcohol overdose, also known as alcohol poisoning, is a serious and sometimes fatal consequence of drinking
considerably more ethanol alcohol than the body can metabolize and eliminate.
When a person drinks alcohol, it is mainly "processed" or metabolized by his or her liver. After the metabolism
process, the alcohol is eliminated primarily via a person's urine, sweat, and via his or her breath.
Binge Drinking is a Type of Alcohol Abuse
It is important to accentuate the fact that binge drinking (that is, consuming four or more alcoholic beverages
at one sitting for females and ingesting five or more alcoholic drinks at one sitting for males) can also result in
an alcohol overdose.
What is more, binge drinking is not only a form of "alcohol abuse" but it is probably responsible for more cases
of alcohol poisoning than any other kind of abusive drinking, including alcoholism.
To illustrate this point, let us create a scenario. Sarah is known by all of her friends as a
non-drinker--except on her birthdays. Indeed, every year on her birthday, Sarah goes out with her best friends and
gets drunk. Question. Can Sarah experience an alcohol overdose even if she only drinks excessively once per
Answer. If Sarah consumes more alcohol than her liver can process and her body can eliminate, she certainly can
experience an alcohol overdose--even if she only drinks in a hazardous and abusive manner on her birthday. What is
more, even though she only gets drunk once every year, each time Sarah does this she not only engages in "binge
drinking," but she also runs the risk of dying from alcohol poisoning.
So the bottom line regarding alcohol poisoning is this: if you want to avoid an alcohol overdose always drink in
moderation or not at all.
Blood Alcohol Content
The effects of alcohol on your body and your brain depend on the level of alcohol in your blood. This is known
as your blood alcohol content or your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
There are several factors that influence your BAC. The most common factors that affect your BAC include the
- The amount of food in your stomach at the time you drink. The more food that's in your
stomach, the lower your BAC,all other BAC factors being equal.
- How much alcohol you drink. All other factors being equal, your BAC will be higher the
more alcohol you drink.
- How quickly you consume the alcoholic beverages. For example, your BAC will be
significantly lower if you consume one drink every 90 minutes as opposed to having a drink every 20
- How strong the alcoholic drink is. This point is often misunderstood by drinkers. For
instance, some drinkers assume that four bottles of "standard" beer have the same alcohol content as four shots
of liquor. This can be the case but what if the shots are shots of Everclear, for instance? Since Everclear
shots contain almost three times as much alcohol as "standard" shots, obviously drinking four shots of
Everclear has approximately three times as much alcohol content as four "standard" bottles of beer.In a word,
the stronger the alcoholic drinks, the higher your BAC.
- How rapidly your body metabolizes the alcohol. The main point here is that not everyone's
liver metabolizes alcohol at the same rate. For instance, people who can metabolize substantially more alcohol
per hour than others will have a lower BAC, all other BAC factors being equal.
- How much you weigh. With all other BAC factors being equal. the more you weigh, the lower
your BAC will be as compared to another person who weighs significantly less than you. For instance, let us say
the Bob weighs 230 pounds and Lisa weighs 130 pounds. If Bob and Lisa have the same rate of metabolism, they
both drink on an empty stomach, they have the same number and exactly the same kinds of alcoholic beverages,
and they both consume one drink every 20 minutes, due to the fact that Bob weighs considerably more than Lisa,
his BAC will be lower than hers.
Common Alcohol Overdose Signs and Symptoms
Normally, the first symptom of an alcohol overdose is nausea, followed by vomiting. These signs are indicators
from your body and especially by your brain letting you know that you ingested more alcohol than your body can
metabolize and eliminate.
The following list characterizes some basic signs and signals of alcohol poisoning:
- Poor or absent reflexes. Is the person constantly spilling his or her drinks? Does the
person fall down when trying to walk to the restroom?
- Unconsciousness (passing out). For instance, did the drinker pass out while going to the
- Confusion. When the person talks does he or she make any sense or does he or she seem
atypically illogical, or out-of-touch?
- Nausea. Is the drinker saying he feels nauseous or feels like he is going to vomit?
- Failure to withdraw from pain (pinching, for instance). Let's say that your friend
Michelle has been drinking quite a bit. You suspect that she may be experiencing an alcohol overdose. To verify
your suspicion, you pinch his or her arm or leg. If Michelle doesn't respond to your pinching by withdrawing
her arm or leg, she may in fact be experiencing an alcohol overdose.
- Pale skin or blue-tinged skin (especially if the person does not normally have pale or
- Seizures especially if the person is not an epileptic.
- Unpredictable, highly changeable behavior. If your friend has been drinking and he starts
to display uncharacteristic and erratic mood swings, this is an indication that he is experiencing an alcohol
- Slurred speech, especially if the person doesn't usually slur his or her speech.
- Difficulty awakening the individual. If the person has been drinking and falls asleep. Try
to awaken him or her. If this proves to be difficult, the person may be experiencing an alcohol overdose.
- Vomiting. Especially if it is constant and heavy.
- Difficulty engaging the person in conversation. If the person has been drinking, is
usually attentive to your conversation, and seems unable to stay on topic, this may be an indication that he or
she is experiencing an alcohol overdose.
- Slow, shallow, or irregular breathing. Since this is rather difficult to observe in most
people, if the person is conscious and you suspect that he may be experiencing an alcohol overdose, ask him if
he is having any breathing problems.
Obviously, the more alcohol overdose "symptoms" the person exhibits, the more likely that he or she is
experiencing an alcohol overdose. If you suspect that a person is experiencing an alcohol overdose, promptly call
911 and ask for immediate medical assistance.
The Interaction of Alcohol and Other Drugs
It must be underscored that alcohol can also be hazardous, can lead to an overdose, and can be lethal in smaller
amounts if it is ingested along with the following drugs:
- Anti-seizure drugs such as Phenobarbital
- Sedatives like cannabis, barbiturates, and tranquilizers
- Narcotics such as darvocet, codeine, opium, codeine derivatives, and heroin.
As you can see, it really doesn't matter if the drug is a "street" drug or a prescription that was written by a
doctor. Certain drugs when taken in combination with drinking alcohol can lead to a fatal overdose.
Conclusion: Alcohol Overdose
Nearly 50,000 people suffer through an alcohol overdose annually in the United States, and nearly once per week,
someone needlessly dies from alcohol poisoning. Knowing what alcohol overdose signs and symptoms to look for and
reacting quickly and appropriately to such a situation can help avoid a deadly alcohol overdose.
So what is the "appropriate" way to deal with most alcohol overdose situations? Seek immediate medical
assistance by calling 911 so that the person can get the alcohol overdose treatment he or she needs.