Although many people enjoy moderate drinking, defined as one drink per day for women or two for men, drinking too much can lead to an overdose. An alcohol overdose, also known as alcohol poisoning, occurs when a person has a blood alcohol content (or BAC) sufficient to produce impairments that increase the risk of harm.
Alcohol overdoses can range in severity, from problems with balance and slurred speech to coma or even death. What tips the balance from drinking that has pleasant effects to drinking that can cause harm varies among individuals. Age, drinking experience, gender, the amount of food eaten, even ethnicity all can influence how much is too much. Knowing the symptoms of alcohol poisoning can help someone take the appropriate action to help someone in need.
- Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or inability to wake up
- Slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute)
- Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
- Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness
- 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
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.
A major cause of alcohol poisoning is binge drinking — a pattern of heavy drinking when a male rapidly consumes five or more alcoholic drinks within two hours, or a female downs at least four drinks within two hours. An alcohol binge can occur over hours or last up to several days. You can consume a fatal dose before you pass out. Even when you are unconscious or you have stopped drinking, alcohol continues to be released from your stomach and intestines into your bloodstream, and the level of alcohol in your body continues to rise.
Unlike food, which can take hours to digest, alcohol is absorbed quickly by your body — long before most other nutrients. Moreover, it takes a lot more time for your body to get rid of the alcohol you have consumed. Most alcohol is processed (metabolized) by your liver. The more you drink, especially in a short period of time, the greater your risk of alcohol poisoning.
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.