Alcohol poisoning, also known as an alcohol overdose, happens when we drink too much too fast. When we drink moderately, our bodies have enough time to process the alcohol in our bloodstream. But when we consume too many drinks in a short amount of time, the liver is unable to metabolize all of the alcohol we’ve consumed. Excess alcohol shuts down certain parts of the brain, affecting some of our bodies’ most vital functions. Luckily, being able to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning can help save lives.
Alcohol Poisoning: How Much Is Too Much?
Too much alcohol in the blood can cause alcohol poisoning. Unfortunately, most people easily consume more than 1 serving of alcohol the liver is able to metabolize every hour.
A single serving of alcohol equates to:
- 5 ounces of wine
- 8 ounces of malt liquor
- 1.5 ounces of whiskey, tequila, gin, rum, or vodka
- 12 ounces of beer
When we drink more than these amounts in a single hour, the liver has a hard time processing the alcohol in our bloodstream. Our blood-alcohol content (BAC), which measures the amount of alcohol in our blood, increases, impairing our ability to function.
According to the Alcohol Hangover Research Group, a blood alcohol concentration of 0.11% can cause a hangover. BAC levels between 0.31 and 0.45% can cause alcohol poisoning, which can be life-threatening. Most of us aren’t aware of our BAC as we drink, but we can pay attention to the following signs of alcohol poisoning.
Alcohol Poisoning: 5 Warning Signs
1. Difficulty Remaining Conscious
As a depressant, alcohol slows down activity in the central nervous system. Excessive amounts of alcohol can cause people to lose consciousness. Unlike a blackout, which can cause people to go in and out of consciousness, people suffering from alcohol poisoning often have difficulty remaining conscious and may be unable to be roused.
2. Bluish-Colored, Clammy Skin
Alcohol dilates the arteries, making blood flow more freely through our skin, hands, fingers, and toes. This may make us feel warmer when we drink, but research shows that alcohol doesn’t actually create heat in our body. In fact, alcohol actually decreases our body’s core temperature, increasing our risk of hypothermia, which can lead to clammy, bluish-colored skin. Hypothermia can lead to heart failure and death.
3. Slow, Irregular Breathing
As alcohol continues to slow down activity in the central nervous system, individuals typically have difficulty breathing. Most individuals with alcohol poisoning have trouble taking fewer than 8 breaths per minute. Lack of oxygen can lead to organ failure and death.
As the liver fails to metabolize the excessive amounts of alcohol in the bloodstream, alcohol builds up in the central nervous system, which causes blood sugar levels to drop. This, in turn, causes hypoglycemia. Severe cases of hypoglycemia can cause dizziness, light-headedness, and seizures. Alcohol poisoning can also cause dehydration, which can also trigger alcohol-induced seizures.
Excessive amounts of alcohol can also lead to vomiting. Unfortunately, victims of alcohol poisoning also have a high risk of choking on their own vomit. As an overwhelming amount of alcohol floods the brain, the brain’s ability to control automatic responses like the gag reflex diminishes, increasing the risk of choking.
Alcohol poisoning is a serious condition, so if you notice any of these signs, be sure to contact medical professionals right away.
Contact Us and Reclaim Your Life Today
Alcohol poisoning can be fatal. But that doesn’t have to be your story. You can overcome alcohol addiction challenges and our holistic outpatient treatment programs can help you get there. Contact the Meta Addiction Treatment team today if you’re ready to regain control of your life and continue your journey to sobriety.