Alcohol poisoning is a serious — and sometimes deadly — consequence of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Drinking too much too quickly can affect your breathing, heart rate, body temperature and gag reflex and potentially lead to coma and death.
Alcohol poisoning can also occur when adults or children accidentally or intentionally drink household products that contain alcohol.
A person with alcohol poisoning needs immediate medical attention. If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, call for emergency medical help right away.
Alcohol poisoning signs and symptoms include:
- Slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
- Irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths)
- Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
- Low body temperature (hypothermia)
- Passing out (unconsciousness) and can't be awakened
It's not necessary to have all these signs and symptoms before you seek help. A person who is unconscious or can't be awakened is at risk of dying.
HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH?
Unlike food, which can take hours to digest, alcohol is absorbed quickly by your body — long before most other nutrients. And it takes a lot more time for your body to get rid of the alcohol you've consumed.
Most alcohol is processed by your liver, and in general, it takes about one hour for your liver to process (metabolize) the alcohol in one drink. One drink is defined as:
- 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of regular beer (about 5 percent alcohol)
- 8 to 9 ounces (237 to 266 milliliters) of malt liquor (about 7 percent alcohol)
- 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine (about 12 percent alcohol)
- 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 80-proof hard liquor (about 40 percent alcohol)
- Mixed drinks may contain more than one serving of alcohol and take even longer to metabolize.
MYTHS & HOME REMEDIES:
Home remedies for alcohol poisoning won't work. Remember this is an emergency situation.
Dangerous Myths: You can't reverse the effects of alcohol poisoning, and you could actually make things worse through some actions. Here's what doesn't work:
- Black coffee or caffeine — this does not counteract the effects of alcohol poisoning;
- A cold shower — the shock of cold can cause a loss of consciousness;
- Walking it off — this does not increase the speed alcohol leaves your body;
- Sleeping it off — you can lose consciousness while asleep.
DON'T BE AFRAID TO GET HELP:
It can be difficult to decide if you think someone is drunk enough to warrant medical intervention, but it's best to err on the side of caution. You may worry about the consequences for yourself or your friend or loved one, particularly if you're underage. But the consequences of not getting the right help in time can be far more serious. If you suspect that someone has alcohol poisoning — even if you don't see the classic signs and symptoms — seek immediate medical care.
Additional Resources - Alcohol Poisoning Signs, Symptoms, Care