Alcohol poisoning is much more deadly than you’d think. On average, six Americans die per day from alcohol poisoning. That’s not a small sum. Non-Hispanic white men between the ages of 35 and 64 years old have a higher risk of dying from an overdose than any other demographic. Many people don’t know the limits of their bodies. As a result, it is vital to know the signs of alcohol poisoning so that you can render aid if necessary.
Dependence may also play a huge role. Studies show that alcohol dependence was involved in 30% of alcohol poisoning cases. During an overdose, the alcohol overwhelms the entire body and causes the neurochemicals in the brain to act up. The GABA and glutamate systems are particularly vulnerable to alcohol. Interference with these systems causes the side effects involved with alcohol abuse. It’s also responsible for the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning. When alcohol is broken down, the metabolites can also damage the body.
In conjunction with neurochemical changes, these metabolites are responsible for the health-related issues associated with drinking alcohol. Since alcohol poisoning is so dangerous, those with a substance use disorder involving alcohol should seek help as soon as possible from a professional alcohol addiction treatment program. Treatment can help them recover, but knowing what signs and symptoms to look out for is half the battle. Alcohol poisoning can be easy to miss. Here are some signs to look for if you suspect alcohol poisoning may be involved. If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, please reach out to Women’s Recovery at 833.754.0554 to learn about our drug and alcohol rehab programs today.
What Are the Signs of Alcohol Poisoning?
Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the weight of ethanol, in grams, in 100 milliliters of blood. BAC measures a person’s level of intoxication or the percentage of alcohol in their blood. It can determine how intoxicated a person is. With that said, everybody reacts to alcohol differently. While a certain BAC may cause impairment in some individuals, it may not affect someone else who has developed a higher tolerance. The more a person drinks within a specific time frame, the higher their BAC will usually be.
In the United States, the legal BAC limit for drivers 21 years of age and older is .08, and anything over that can result in a DUI charge.
- For an adult male, that equates to about 5 drinks over a period of two hours
- For an adult female, that equates to about 4 drinks over a period of two hours
Many other factors can influence BAC levels in a person’s body. It’s common for signs of alcohol poisoning to emerge once BAC exceeds 0.16. At these levels, the body may still be able to clear the alcohol by itself successfully. A BAC higher than this level is considered binge drinking. This is not healthy for the body. When a person’s BAC is higher than 0.31, it puts the individual’s life at risk for life-threatening symptoms.
Slow or Irregular Breathing
Alcohol is a depressant. It acts on the central nervous system (CNS) to calm it down. One of the side effects of alcohol use is that it will slow down respiratory breathing. A sign of an overdose is when a person’s breathing slows down too much or when their breathing becomes irregular. You can tell if someone has alcohol poisoning by monitoring his or her breathing. Anything less than eight breaths per minute or anything more than 10 seconds between each breath is a cause for concern.
Irregular breathing could cause long-lasting damage to the body. If it doesn’t, the person is still at risk for cardiac depression and failure. Someone who is breathing irregularly should be under close supervision. It’s best if they receive medical attention right away. In worst-case scenarios, their breathing could stop, leading to asphyxiation.
Hypothermia, or Low Body Temperature
There’s a myth going around that drinking alcohol keeps you warm. That’s actually the furthest thing from the truth since alcohol actually causes your body temperature to drop. You will feel warmer, however, as your BAC level rises. This is because alcohol dilates arteries and increases blood flow to your extremities. Another interesting fact is that alcohol acts as an anesthetic when BAC levels rise above 0.3g/100 milliliters of blood. Someone who is drinking heavily will also be more likely to develop hypoglycemia. They are less likely to shiver. As a result, their body produces less heat.
Heavy drinkers may struggle with impaired thermoregulation. They may be able to regulate their own body temperature. Chronic alcoholics often struggle with hypothermia. Their body temperature drops below 95 °F. Unfortunately, they don’t feel cold due to dilated skin arteries. With that said, they also lose more body heat because the veins are dilated. This means they can be in a cold room and not feel cold. However, their body temperature continues to drop. Their brain tricks their body into thinking that they’re warm when they’re actually freezing. Due to these reasons, heavy drinkers have a high risk of dying from hypothermia.
Your body is marvelous. It has mechanisms in place to protect itself. Vomiting is one of them. When your body detects the presence of toxins or poisons, it will induce vomiting in hopes of getting rid of it. This is precisely what happens with alcohol poisoning. Vomiting is a sign of ethanol poisoning. It indicates that you have drunk too much booze. Your body realizes it and feels the alcohol working on the body.
Specific mechanisms trigger vomiting to protect the body from sustaining any further damage. The goal is to empty your stomach and get rid of all toxins before your body can absorb them. Although vomiting can help, it does not necessarily guarantee that the body avoids harm. It also doesn’t mean that further action is not needed.
Your body may have already absorbed an excessive amount of alcohol. In this case, your BAC will continue to rise. You may still need to seek medical attention. People should know that vomiting can be dangerous for those who are intoxicated. Alcohol hinders the gag reflex. Without a gag reflex, someone who vomits is at risk of choking on the vomit. This could lead to death by asphyxiation. Even if the person survives, the lack of oxygen can lead to long-lasting brain damage.
Seizures are another common sign of alcohol poisoning. It can happen to anyone. Chronic and heavy drinkers are more likely to experience seizures than occasional drinkers. Seizures are not only signs of an overdose, but they can also happen when a person is withdrawing from alcohol. In these situations, the seizures can turn deadly quite quickly. Seizures can also be caused by alcohol intolerance. Seizures that happen because of alcohol poisoning are usually triggered by hypoglycemia and severe hydration. The body runs out of essential resources and can no longer maintain its own function.
Alcoholics experience strong muscle convulsions during the seizures. They may also experience a loss of bladder or bowel control. Alcoholics experience seizures when their brain activity is disrupted. It can be an indication that something is wrong with the wiring. It may also happen if neurochemical levels become imbalanced.
Loss of Consciousness
When the body becomes too overwhelmed by the alcohol, it could lead to a loss of consciousness. It’s difficult for many people to gauge whether someone has lost consciousness or is sleeping. This is why it’s vital to rouse alcoholics after a night of heavy drinking. It’s important to note that those who are sleeping can easily lose consciousness as well. Telling who is drunk to “sleep it off” can be very bad advice. A loss of consciousness can also conceal other signs of an overdose.
With that said, losing consciousness is much easier if you drink on an empty stomach. The intestines absorb a larger percentage of liquor. When the alcohol gets absorbed into the bloodstream, it becomes much easier for it to travel to the brain and wreak havoc.
Contact Women’s Recovery
An alcohol poisoning experience should be a wake-up call. If it happened to you, it’s time to get help. Reach out to one of our specialists to learn more about our alcohol detox and rehab program. If it happened to someone close to you, it’s time to stage an intervention. Clearly, their drinking has gotten out of control. It’s time that they get help, and it’s time for them to face the severity of their addiction. If you’re an alcoholic, don’t let alcoholism dictate how you live your life anymore. Getting sober will change your life for the better. You’ll finally be able to achieve your dreams and reach different heights.
Although the recovery process is not easy, Women’s Recovery is here to lend a helping hand. Our specialists try to make things as straightforward for you as possible. We know how difficult facing any addiction can be, but we also know that you can treat and recover from an alcohol use disorder (AUD). All you need is motivation, discipline, and a little help. To learn more about our services, please contact our treatment center today at 833.754.0554.