What are the Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning?

What are the Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning?

Although many people enjoy moderate drinking, defined as one drink per day for women or two for men, drinking excessively can lead to an overdose. An alcohol overdose, also known as alcohol poisoning, occurs when a person’s blood alcohol content (or BAC) is high enough to cause impairments that may cause self-harm or damage to others.

Alcohol overdoses can cause a series of problems from mild to more severe, including trouble with balance, slurred speech to coma or even death. Every individual reacts to effects of drinking in different ways, and many factors can influence this, including age, drinking experience, gender, the amount of food eaten, and even a person’s ethnicity can influence how much alcohol is too much, according to the NIAAA. Knowing the symptoms of alcohol poisoning can help someone take the appropriate action to help someone in need. 

Critical Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning  

  • Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or inability to wake up  
  • Vomiting 
  • Seizures 
  • Slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute)  
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)  
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness  Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

What Can Happen to Someone if Alcohol Poisoning That Goes Untreated?

  • Choking on his or her own vomit 
  • Breathing that slows, becomes irregular, or stops 
  • Heart that beats irregularly or stops 
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature) 
  • Hypoglycemia (too little blood sugar), which leads to seizures 
  • Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting, which can cause seizures, permanent brain damage, and death 

Deaths Caused by Alcohol Poisoning

According to the CDC, an average of six people died every day in the U.S. from 2010 to 2012 due to alcohol poisoning. Seventy-six percent (3 in 4) of those deaths are among adults ages 35 to 64, and about 76% of those who die due to alcohol poisoning are men.

There are an average of 2,200 annual alcohol poisoning deaths in the United States, and alcoholism was cited as a factor in 30% of all alcohol related deaths.

Binge Drinking

A major cause of alcohol poisoning is binge drinking — a pattern of heavy drinking described as five or more alcoholic drinks within two hours for men, and at least four drinks within two hours for women. An alcohol binge can last anywhere from few hours to several days. It may surprise many to learn that they may consume a fatal amount if overdose before they lose consciousness. In fact, when a person is unconscious or has stopped drinking, the alcohol in their system continues to be released into the bloodstream, causing the levels of BAC to rise. 

Alcohol is absorbed very quickly by the body, unlike food, which can take hours to digest. Furthermore, it takes the body much longer to get rid of the alcohol, most of which is processed by the liver. The more a person drinks, especially in a short period of time, the grater their risk for alcohol poisoning. 

Get Treatment for Alcohol Abuse and Addiction

It’s important to understand how serious alcohol abuse can be, and the risks associated with this behavior. If you or someone you love is abusing or addicted to alcohol, the time to get help is now. You do not have to hit rock bottom to be treated by professional addiction specialists. At Get Treatment, we can help you find a certified alcohol rehab center that provides individualized care and support for ongoing recovery. To speak to a caring admissions counselor today, dial 855-638-9268.




Erica Loret de Mola


Erica Loret de Mola is a communications major who has been writing about addiction treatment for approximately three years. As content manager and editor in chief of Get Treatment, she strives to provide the most accurate and current information available to our clients.


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