An alcohol overdose, frequently referred to as alcohol poisoning, can occur when a person consumes too much alcohol in a short period of time. Overconsumption of alcohol can be dangerous, and in some cases, life-threatening, and can affect anyone regardless of tolerance level, age, gender, or weight. While alcohol is frequently consumed as a means of relaxing or is used as a way to connect socially with others, drinking too much alcohol too quickly can lead to a dangerous situation.
Binge drinking is a common culprit in alcohol overdose, but it can happen to anyone in any situation. Alcohol metabolizes in everyone differently, making the amount of alcohol needed to overdose different from person to person. Those struggling with the disease of addiction may see as though they can drink more due to developing a tolerance but the impact on the body is the same. Alcohol is a depressant, and as a person consumes it, they may notice that their movement, reaction time, and speech slow down. Aspects of a person’s physical, mental, and emotional functioning change. As a person drinks, their body works to metabolize it, but if too much is consumed too quickly, the body cannot keep up.
Alcohol poisoning can sometimes look like symptoms of being drunk, but it can have life-threatening consequences. Even one instance of overconsumption can lead to serious complications. Even if a person has stopped drinking, they can still experience an overdose. Signs and symptoms of an overdose include:
- Abnormal breathing
- Pale skin, sometimes with a blue tinge
- Severe dehydration
- Passing out
- Breathing stops
- Heart attack
If You Suspect Alcohol Poisoning
An alcohol overdose can be deadly and it requires immediate treatment. If you suspect a person has overdose on alcohol, you should call for an ambulance immediately and provide the following assistance:
- Keep the person awake
- Do not leave them alone
- Keep them sitting up, not lying down, if possible
- If a person must lie down, lay them on their side to prevent choking
- Give them water if they are able to take it
- Do not make them walk
- Do not give them caffeine or more alcohol
- If they are vomiting, help them
- The gag reflex is impaired by alcohol poisoning, meaning a person can choke on their own vomit and may not be able to breathe
If you suspect an alcohol overdose, it is best to err on the side of caution. Even if you fear repercussions because the person is underage, the consequences of an overdose are far more severe.
An alcohol overdose should be treated in a medical environment. At a hospital, a person’s vitals can be monitored to ensure no further complications arise. Depending on the severity of the situation a person may need:
- Fluids or medications provided intravenously (through a vein)
- Oxygen provided through a mask or tube
- Nutrients to prevent further damage from occurring
Preventing an Alcohol Overdose
The only way to truly prevent an alcohol overdose is to limit your intake whether that be by consuming a small amount or not drinking at all. Alcohol consumption is largely normalized in pop culture and the media sometimes glamorizes overconsumption. It is often depicted as a normal social behavior with fun outcomes, but is rarely shown to produce dangerous outcomes. For young adults and adolescents especially, this misrepresentation can put a person in a life-threatening situation.
Education about the risks of alcohol consumption is vital in preventing alcohol poisoning. Understanding the risks associated with overconsumption can help reduce instances of overdose and help prepare others to intervene should a life-threatening situation occur. Alcohol poisoning can be treated, but in some cases, may leave a person with permanent damage. A person’s outlook greatly depends on identifying the signs of an overdose quickly and seeking treatment immediately.
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or addiction, we are here to help. Give us a call at 888.855.6877 or send us a message below and one of our admissions counselors will do their best to get you the help you need.