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How to Identify and Treat Alcohol Poisoning

How to Identify and Treat Alcohol Poisoning

January 10, 2022

Pushing our bodies beyond what they can handle can cause situations that range from dangerous to deadly. Alcohol consumption is no exception. And when we push our bodies to consume alcohol beyond what it can handle, the result is always dangerous, and too often, deadly. This is known as alcohol poisoning. Here’s what you need to know about alcohol poisoning and how to treat it.

Poison of a Different Kind

You may have heard words like binge drinking, intoxication, or blackouts, but alcohol poisoning might not be a phrase you are all that familiar with. In fact, you might not associate poison with alcohol at all. Instead, you might think that poison is a liquid or a powder that’s added to alcohol. But we’re not talking about that kind of poison. Instead, we’re talking about a technical term that describes a very serious alcohol condition. So what exactly is alcohol poisoning?

In one sense, alcohol poisoning describes the process and the aftermath when you drink more alcohol in one sitting than your body is capable of processing. It often occurs when people binge drink, become intoxicated and eventually pass out. But the process involves what happens when the liver is trying to process more alcohol than it can handle. The result is the rest goes into our bloodstream. This can cause major organ dysfunction and alcohol-related death.

Alcohol poisoning does not always result in blacking out, but this doesn’t mean it is any less dangerous to our health. As excessive alcohol is pushed to different organs in the body through the bloodstream, other side effects like decreased breathing and heart rate changes can occur while the user is still conscious. As people experience these side effects, panic attacks are a real possibility, which can often result in fainting.

If you have ever witnessed someone drinking alcohol to the point of passing out, it’s easy to assume that the danger is over, and their body is simply sleeping off the alcohol now. But while passing out might seem like the end of the danger, it’s not. In fact, things transition from dangerous to deadly at this point. When people experience alcohol poisoning, their body continues to release alcohol into their bloodstream- even after passing out! Vomiting becomes very likely and very dangerous, because with no gag reflex, users are extremely likely to choke on their vomit and potentially die from asphyxiation.

Time is of the Essence

The point here is to help you and those you love to understand how dangerous alcohol poisoning is. Understanding the signs of alcohol poisoning can help you know what to do if a friend or loved one is experiencing the effects of alcohol poisoning. Receiving treatment immediately is the best-case scenario for alcohol poisoning, so calling 911 is the first line of defense. Because asphyxiation is a real danger once someone has passed out, keeping them upright and awake is also very important.

While time frame matters for helping people during the crucial moments of alcohol poisoning, time frame also matters when it comes to the long-term effects of alcohol poisoning. Ongoing alcohol use can lead to a potentially fatal loss of mental function, called wet brain. While some of this is reversible by avoiding alcohol abuse or abstaining from alcohol entirely, it can often be permanent. While binge drinking once seemed like a good idea at the time, the result of alcohol poisoning can have lasting effects for life.

Time is of the essence, both during alcohol poisoning and the aftermath. If you or a loved one have experienced any of the symptoms associated with alcohol poisoning, don’t downplay it by assuming that our bodies will recover the next day. Sometimes, this doesn’t happen. And sadly for many, sometimes the next day never comes at all.

This article was written by Kevin Morris from the Delphi Behavioral Health Group, a dedicated family of facilities committed to offering individualized treatment for all levels of addiction working to treat it at its core to provide those suffering with the tools to start a journey of long-lasting recovery.

As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before making any changes to your wellness routine.

Materials provided by:

Mayo Clinic (2018, Jan 19.). Alcohol Poisoning. Retrieved https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-poisoning/symptoms-causes/syc-20354386

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). Alcohol Poisoning: How to Tell, What to Do, and the Health Risks. Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/alcohol/alcohol-poisoning/

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). Guide to Alcohol Detox: Severity, Dangers, and Timeline. Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/alcohol/detox/

Medical News Today. (n.d.). What to know about alcohol poisoning. Retrieved https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/215627#symptoms

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2021, May.). Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose. Retrieved https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-dangers-of-alcohol-overdose

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). Alcohol Overdose – Symptoms, Effects on the Body, and Risk of Death. Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/alcohol/overdose/

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). How to Quickly Recover After an Alcohol Binge. Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/alcohol/recover-from-binge/

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). The Symptoms of Wet Brain from Alcohol: What Are They? Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/alcohol/wet-brain/

Delphi Health Group. (n.d.). Symptoms of Alcohol Brain Damage: Is it Reversible? Retrieved https://delphihealthgroup.com/alcohol/brain-damage-symptoms/