There is no reason to beat around the bush – a good portion of the population enjoys having a drink. And as long as it is in moderation, this isn’t much of an issue. After all, having a glass of wine with a meal or a beer while watching the game is yet to hurt anyone. Unfortunately, not all alcohol consumption is as harmless as this.
What Is Alcohol Poisoning?
In simplest terms, alcohol poisoning is a consequence of ingesting too much of the substance in a short period of time. Too short for your liver to properly metabolize it. Once a person’s had a drink or two, they may get a bit tipsy. A few drinks more, and they’ll be properly drunk. But if the drinking continues, alcohol poisoning becomes a real danger.
This can have very serious consequences on a person’s organism. In severe cases, even death can occur. While on this topic, a CDC report states that alcohol poisoning claims the lives of 2,200 people each year in the US. And while we may be quick to associate excessive drinking with teenagers, who are known for their partying ways, most people who die due to alcohol poisoning are actually between the ages of 35 and 64.
Because of this, it is obvious that alcohol poisoning is a very serious condition. As such, it requires immediate and professional medical help. And in order to know when to get such help for someone, it is imperative to be able to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning.
What Are the Signs of Alcohol Poisoning?
A person who is suffering from alcohol poisoning, either from excessive drinking or ingesting the substance through other means (you can find alcohol in numerous household products for example), may exhibit the following symptoms. There are other possible signs, but these are the main ones.
1) Confusion and Other Altered Mental States
A person who is mildly intoxicated will slur their speech and have issues with physical coordination. They may also show signs of aggression or depression. But as the situation worsens and alcohol poisoning takes hold, a person’s mental capacities will become even more compromised. Severe confusion may occur, and the person’s ability to make decisions or judgment calls will be impaired to a great extent.
Once you ingest too much alcohol, your body’s natural response is to attempt to expel it through vomiting. This is also one of the biggest risks associated with this condition. Specifically, in addition to causing vomiting, alcohol can also suppress the gag reflex. Combined with unconsciousness, another symptom we’ll get to shortly, this can cause a person to choke on their vomit.
Alcohol poisoning can sometimes also cause seizures – this is due to reduced levels of blood sugar.
4) Slow and Irregular Breathing
When alcohol floods a person’s organism, some of their bodily functions may slow down. This frequently manifests through improper breathing. The way to establish if this is the case is through simple measuring – if there is a gap of 10 or more seconds between someone’s breaths, their breathing is irregular (or depressed).
5) Pale or Bluish Skin
As alcohol slows down someone’s bodily functions, this will naturally lead to reduced levels of oxygen in the system. The heart and the lungs simply won’t work well enough to supply everything the body requires. The skin will clearly indicate that this is taking place.
In addition to turning pale, certain parts of the body may even take on a blue tinge. You are likely to notice this first with the extremities – particularly the fingers and toes. The lips and the tip of the nose are also common spots for this to occur.
Hypothermia is the reduction of your body’s temperature below the normal level. Naturally, extreme cold is the most common cause of this, but it can also occur due to alcohol poisoning (among other things). This is because alcohol causes the blood vessels to dilate, allowing more heat to escape from the body.
To compound this, the body’s standard response to being cold, which is to shiver, can be hindered due to the overall effect alcohol poisoning has on the organism. And if the weather does indeed happen to be very cold, the person’s impaired judgment can mean they will not wear sufficiently warm clothes, making matters even worse.
This can lead to severe complications, including cardiac arrest.
Finally, a person with alcohol poisoning may lose consciousness. In cases like this, it is important to make a distinction between passing out and simply falling asleep. If the person who has been drinking shows a response to loud noises or shaking, then they were just asleep. But if you are unable to wake them, then they are unconscious and things have taken a severe turn for the worse.
If this happens, it is very important not to leave the unconscious person alone. As mentioned, they are at great risk of choking on their own vomit, which can easily have fatal consequences.
It is important to note that not all of these signs need to be present in order for someone to be suffering from alcohol poisoning. Even one or two are enough, and it is important to immediately get the doctors involved.
What Causes Alcohol Poisoning?
As mentioned, there are ways to get alcohol poisoning without alcoholic beverages. A person may unintentionally ingest a household product which contains some type of alcohol (such as ethanol or methanol). This is a particular risk with children. However, heavy drinking is the cause everyone’s most familiar with. In this regard, binge drinking is an issue of particular note.
While everyone knows what binge drinking is, the term actually also has an official definition. According to the CDC, it is consuming at least four drinks (if you are female) or five drinks (if you are male) during one occasion. For this purpose, a single drink is defined as 12 ounces of standard beer, five ounces of wine, etc.
A huge risk when binge drinking is the fact that alcohol will continue to be released into a person’s bloodstream even after they’ve stopped drinking. This means the level of alcohol in their body will continue to increase even after they, for example, pass out. This makes it even more difficult to ascertain when someone’s had enough. As a result, erring on the side of caution is always advised.
Drinking can be a social activity, and there is nothing wrong with it if caution is employed. But overindulging can easily lead to alcohol poisoning, an incredibly serious medical issue.
A person with this problem requires immediate medical attention. Home remedies such as walking or sleeping it off or having a cold shower simply will not work. They can even make matters worse. This is an emergency and needs to be treated as such.
This is why knowing the signs of alcohol poisoning is all the more important. Recognizing them on time and contacting medical professionals can literally mean the difference between life and death.