Alcohol poisoning is severe and can lead to deadly consequences. It happens when a person binge drinks a toxic amount of alcohol in a short period. Alcohol poisoning can harm health, affect breathing, lower heart rate, reduce body temperature, and potentially lead to coma or death. The awareness to avoid misusing alcohol is significantly less among Indians, especially young adults.
Signs of alcohol poisoning
The signs of alcohol poisoning include:
- Less co-ordination
- Repeated vomiting
- Irregular breathing
- Low body temperature
- Passing out
Seek medical help for alcohol poisoning
Call for immediate medical assistance in case one undergoes alcohol poisoning. When waiting for medics to arrive, kindly follow the following procedure for the suspected alcohol poison person:
- Keep them awake
- Make them sit straight
- Provide them with water to drink
- If they lose their consciousness, lie them in the recovery position, and check whether they are breathing correctly.
- Try keeping them warm and stay with them
Letting the person sleep it off might be vital and should never be an option during alcohol poisoning. The alcohol level in a person’s blood will continue to rise even after 30–40 minutes of their last drink. An increase in alcohol levels in the blood can lead to severe symptoms.
Sobering the person up during alcohol poisoning is also a no-go. Providing them with caffeine or suggesting a cold shower might end up dangerous. When caffeine mixes with alcohol in blood, it can act as a depressant influence of alcohol, making the person think they are soberer than real.
Treatment for alcohol poisoning
The medics will thoroughly monitor the person until the alcohol poisoning leaves their system. If required, they might include:
- Intubation (inserting tube into the mouth) to remove blockages and open the airway to help them breath
- Intravenous drip directly through the vein increases the body’s water, blood sugar, and vitamin levels.
- Catheter, a process to drain urine
Risks of alcohol poisoning
- Heart attack
- Choking on own vomit
- Dehydration leads to brain damage in severe case
- Seizure or fits due to lowered blood sugar
- Blood vomiting due to torn blood vessels in the gullet and stomach
How does alcohol poisoning happen?
The liver will filter alcohol out of the blood. The absorbing time for alcohol is much quicker than for food, so the body can only process one unit of alcohol per hour. When the limit of one unit exceeds, the body will not have enough time to process alcohol, leading to alcohol poisoning. Drinking household products that contain alcohol can also lead to alcohol poisoning.
Reviewed by – Dr. Priyanka, MBBS MD Microbiology
Page last reviewed: 23 JUNE 2022