Signs of Alcohol Overdose: Symptoms and What to Do

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Alcohol, despite being widely available, is a potentially dangerous substance — accounting for 1 in every 20 deaths worldwide. It is no wonder then that alcohol overdose is shockingly common. Six people per day, mostly men, die as a result of alcohol poisoning. Knowing the causes and signs of alcohol overdose, as well as symptoms to look for, can help prevent unnecessary deaths and equip you to act in potential overdose scenarios.

What is Alcohol Overdose?

Alcohol poisoning, also known as alcohol overdose, happens when excessive alcohol levels are in the bloodstream. Your blood-alcohol content (BAC) determines this by measuring the alcohol concentration in your bloodstream. Alcohol poisoning usually takes place around a BAC of 0.25 percent – more than three times the legal driving limit of 0.08 percent. Moreover, when exposed to high alcohol levels, the brain areas that control breathing and heart rate begin to close down. 

The Signs of Alcohol Overdose

When a person suffers from the effects of alcohol poisoning, they are likely to be confused. They may not know where they are, what they are doing, or who they are with. If a person who has been drinking begins to ask basic questions such as who they are with, or how they get there, this could be a warning sign.

Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it lowers the levels of certain neurotransmitters in the brain. Some of the first indications that a depressant is at work are low levels of arousal and excitement. Additionally, excessive amounts of alcohol will start to shut down some of the body’s essential capacities. The brain functions that handle breathing and body temperature may be impaired, resulting in erratic or shallow breathing or even hypothermia.

As alcohol begins to take over the brain, it may be challenging to stay awake. It is not uncommon, at this stage, to drift in and out of consciousness. Even amid a loud party, some people simply pass out. Furthermore, those suffering from alcohol poisoning will have trouble breathing or experience irregular breathing, with long periods – ten seconds or more – between breaths. Alcohol overdose can be fatal due to the severity of the symptoms, and you should not take them lightly. 

Other symptoms and signs of alcohol overdose include:

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slow or erratic breathing
  • Seizures
  • Shivering or low body temperature
  • Blue or pale skin
  • Passing out

The way alcohol poisoning impacts the gag reflex is one of its most dangerous side effects. Alcohol agitates the stomach’s lining, causing nausea and vomiting — even while sleeping. Vomiting can cause gagging and coughing to clear the airways. A person who is so intoxicated that they have lost consciousness is in danger of choking on their vomit — leading to asphyxiation and death. If you notice someone who has vomited but has not woken up, they may be suffering from alcohol overdose and require immediate medical attention.

Risk Factors

The number of drinks needed to reach a state of severe toxicity varies by the person. Several factors influence it, including the person’s body mass and the rate of consumption. Other factors that usually come into play during instances of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Tolerance
  • Binge drinking
  • Lack of familiarity with personal limits
  • Rapid consumption

Tolerance refers to a decrease in the effects alcohol has on a person. As a result, a person may drink larger and larger quantifies of alcohol in order to achieve the same effects. The more a person drinks, the more their body requires to get intoxicated. When a person with a high tolerance drinks to get drunk, they may involuntarily drink more than the body and brain can manage which can lead to alcohol overdose.

Not only are frequent heavy drinkers at risk, but young people are too. Young people may be unaware of their drinking limits, leading to extreme consumption and an amplified risk of alcohol overdose. In addition, trying to keep up with other drinkers or drinking more to appear ‘cool’ can lead to over-consumption and severely high alcohol levels in the body.

What to Do in the Event of Alcohol Overdose

If you think that you or a friend has overdosed on alcohol, seek help right away. Do not wait for a person to exhibit all of the symptoms of poisoning. Calling 911 immediately ensures that the person in danger gets the help they need as soon as the paramedics arrive, rather than driving to the hospital. This can make a significant difference in terms of the potential harm from alcohol poisoning. Additionally, make sure that the person in danger is not alone – a capable individual should accompany them to ensure that they do not injure themselves. A person overdosing on alcohol is highly vulnerable. If left unattended, they may become unconscious, injure themselves, choke on their vomit, or even stop breathing.

If the intoxicated person is unconscious, make sure they are not lying on their back because this enhances the likelihood of choking. Instead, roll them on their side gently, and do not leave them alone. If their body begins to become notably cold, wrap them in a blanket and keep them warm. If they have breathing difficulties, you can arouse them to remind them to breathe, but do not attempt CPR unless you have been certified to perform CPR. The most crucial thing to do if you believe you or someone else has overdosed on alcohol is to dial 911 and get professional medical help as soon as possible.

Alcohol Detox in Donegal, PA 

Alcohol overdose may indicate that a person is struggling with alcoholism or alcohol abuse. Therefore, it is critical that once a person is no longer in immediate danger from the effects of alcohol poisoning, they seek treatment as soon as possible. In addition, because the psychological and physical withdrawal symptoms from alcohol can be severe and life-threatening, medical detoxification is required to lessen those symptoms so that they can transition to regular inpatient treatment.

If you are worried about your own drinking, or are concerned about a loved on, Dream Life Recovery centers can help. Our team of compassionate and knowledgeable addiction specialists are here to help you get on the road to recovery and to the life you want. For more information about our alcohol treatment program and evidence-based treatment options in our luxurious and serene treatment facility, contact us today.