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What is Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is real, but what is it? Learn about the causes, symptoms, and risk factors of alcohol poisoning here.

Alcohol Poisoning Fundamentals

Every year about 2,200 people in the United States die from alcohol poisoning. 1

Alcohol poisoning occurs when blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels become elevated to the point that important parts of the brain which control basic bodily functioning, such as heart rate and breathing, begin to shut down. 2

Why Does Alcohol Poisoning Occur?

Alcohol poisoning can occur due to consuming alcohol too quickly for the body to process it. In severe cases the results may lead to coma, brain damage, or death. 3

The liver acts as the body’s filter. There are limits to how much the liver can filter out of the body, and a minimum amount of time it takes for it to work. Monitoring alcohol consumption rates can help us to avoid overwhelming the liver and developing alcohol poisoning.

How Much Does It Take To Get Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning is commonly associated with binge drinking, defined as, “a pattern of drinking which brings the Blood Alcohol Concentration to 0.08 percent or higher,” and is a common cause of alcohol poisoning. This BAC level is typically reached at around 4 drinks for women, and 5 for men.

Binge drinking estimates aside, the level of alcohol consumption that the body can tolerate without developing alcohol poisoning will vary depending on each person’s unique physiology, genetics, weight, and the kinds of medications they take. A person can develop alcohol poisoning even when binge drinking is not present.

Symptoms Of Alcohol Poisoning

If you notice someone you are around displaying strange symptoms, acting strange, or moving differently than normal, it could be a sign of alcohol poisoning. There are several signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning that you should watch out for, such as:

  • Irregular breathing
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Pale, clammy, and bluish-tinged skin
  • Low body temperature
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Confusion
  • Incoherence
  • Coma
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea

Health Complications from Alcohol Poisoning

In addition to the aforementioned short-term effects, alcohol poisoning can also cause long-term effects. There are over 140,000 cases of alcohol poisoning deaths every year in the United States.  4Potential Consequences

The list below is non-exhaustive. Alcohol poisoning will affect individuals differently as it places strain on all of the body’s systems in some way or another, and can potentially exacerbate any deficiency in health. Some possible complications from alcohol poisoning include:

  • Choking
  • Stopped breathing
  • Severe dehydration
  • Seizures
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Death 

What Causes Alcohol Poisoning?

The Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is the percentage measure of how much alcohol is in the bloodstream. For example, a BAC of 0.10% means that 1 out of every 1000 parts of the blood are made up of alcohol. A BAC of 0.08% legally counts as intoxication in the state of California. 5

Between 0.0-0.05% of Alcohol

This range is where alcohol intoxication begins, and minor alcohol poisoning occurs. At this BAC range, the body shows little or no obvious external signs of alcohol use. There is only a mild feeling of warmth, dizziness, and a brightening of mood. If you are under 21, it is illegal to drive or use a bicycle if you have a BAC of even 0.01%. 5

Between 0.06-0.15% of Alcohol

A person may begin to lose control of their sight, speech, and body balance at any point within this range. Other manifestations include anxiety, slurred speech, and loss of judgement.

Between 0.16-0.30% of Alcohol

Intoxication of this level can produce nausea, vomiting, inability to walk unaided, high levels of restlessness, and anxiety. At this range, mental confusion may also occur.

Between 0.31-0.45% of Alcohol

BAC levels in this range are extremely high. A person with this high level of alcohol concentrated in their blood is at risk of severe adverse effects of alcohol poisoning. Individuals may lose consciousness, slip into a coma, and could potentially lose their life.  

Risk Factors of Alcohol Poisoning

Different factors affect how different people experience alcohol poisoning. The same amount of alcohol can affect different people in unique ways based on factors like:

Size and Weight

The smaller an individual is, the less alcohol is required to cause drinking poisoning.

Overall Health

People with health conditions are more susceptible to alcohol poisoning than those without them.6

Food Consumption

Drinking alcohol on an empty stomach can make alcohol poisoning more likely, and more dangerous, as there is nothing to slow down or impede the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.

Combination with Recreational Drugs

Combining alcohol with other drugs tends to minimize or obscure the side effects of alcohol poisoning. Drugs may also inhibit a person’s ability to use clear judgment to moderate consumption. 

Alcohol Percentage 

The more alcohol a beverage contains, the faster it can be consumed. Shots, which contain incredibly high volumes of alcohol, are particularly dangerous in this regard.

Rate and Amount of Consumption

Binge drinking often goes hand-in-hand with rapid consumption. Fast consumption sustained over a long period of time creates high levels of alcohol accumulation in the bloodstream.

Tolerance Level 

High tolerance means that it takes longer for alcohol poisoning symptoms to manifest. By the time you notice you are experiencing alcohol poisoning there may still be more alcohol in your body to process.

Prevention of Alcohol Poisoning

You can avoid alcohol poisoning and help others do the same by using strategies like the ones below.

Drink in Moderation

Avoid drinking to the point of experiencing negative symptoms. If you plan on having more than five drinks, have at least an hour-long break between each one.  

Don't Drink on an Empty Stomach

Make sure to have eaten at least a few hours before you drink and have food available while you drink–snacks can go a long way to avoiding adverse outcomes.

Communicate With Your Teens

Men and young adults are more likely to be affected by alcohol poisoning. Maintaining good communication with teens is key in being able to help them manage peer pressure, a major cause of teenage alcohol poisoning. Let your kids know the dangers of binge drinking, and general risks associated with alcohol.

Store Products Safely

If you drink alcohol at home, make sure to keep it stored safely out of the reach of pets and children.

Get Follow-up Care 

If you have a repeated pattern of drinking to the point of developing alcohol poisoning, prevention can include reaching out for support. Having someone to help monitor your progress may help you to avoid experiencing alcohol poisoning by providing accountability and skills and tools appropriately moderate your consumption.

Get Alcohol Poisoning Treatment At Genesis Recovery

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning can have severe adverse effects, so it is important to receive the appropriate treatment. Hydration and electrolyte levels, nutrition, and overall physical health can all be severely impacted by even just one instance of alcohol poisoning.

If you have experienced alcohol poisoning repeatedly, you are at increased risk of additionally severe effects, as damage to the body accumulates over time. With each time you experience alcohol poisoning, you may be at risk of lifelong health damage.  

The Route to Wellness and Sobriety

At Genesis Recovery, we can help lead you to a full recovery and address the underlying causes of alcohol poisoning. Our trained professionals treat every patient with care and compassion, and want nothing more than to see patients go on to live the happiest and healthiest lives that they can. Our facility offers a variety of treatment services each specifically tailored to your individual unique needs.

There is help for you at Genesis Recovery, so contact us today.


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