One of the common questions we are asked is “What is alcohol poisoning?”
Alcohol poisoning, also known as alcohol overdose, is a serious consequence of drinking large quantities of alcohol in a short timeframe. In some cases, alcohol poisoning can even be fatal.
If you drink too much alcohol too quickly – commonly classified as binge drinking – this can impact all of the following:
- Heart rate
- Body temperature
- Breathing rate
- Gag reflex
In the most extreme cases of alcohol overdose, you could even suffer a potentially fatal coma without proper medical intervention.
Additionally, alcohol poisoning can manifest when someone drinks household products containing alcohol, whether deliberately or accidentally.
Anyone experiencing alcohol poisoning needs urgent medical attention. If you suspect that you or a loved one might be suffering from an alcohol overdose, call 911 immediately. Similarly, if your loved one is dealing with a substance abuse problem, reach out to our Huntington Beach alcohol rehab today.
- Women consuming 4 standard drinks within 2 hours
- Men consuming 5 standard drinks within 2 hours
The following drinks are considered standard drinks in the United States:
- 1.5oz distilled spirits: 40% ABV
- 5oz wine: 12% ABV
- 12oz beer: 5% ABV
Any standard drink in the US will contain 14g of pure alcohol.
Drinking this amount of alcohol in such a short period is frequently the cause of alcohol poisoning. Drinking patterns such as binge drinking cause blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to rise rapidly, with potentially dangerous outcomes. Not all cases of binge drinking will lead to alcohol overdose and not all cases of alcohol overdose are caused by binge drinking, but it is nevertheless a destructive and potentially harmful pattern of alcohol consumption.
What is the limit for alcohol poisoning, then?
What BAC is Alcohol Poisoning?
When you drink alcohol rapidly, BAC can reach toxic levels. You should also be aware that blood alcohol concentration will continue rising for up to 40 minutes after the last alcoholic drink.
Alcohol poisoning occurs when BAC reaches 0.25. To put this into better perspective, at BAC levels as low as 0.13, the person will exhibit gross motor impairment. When blood alcohol content hits 0.16, the person will appear as a classic sloppy drunk, and by the time BAC reaches 0.2, the person will likely need assistance walking. Continue drinking and expect BAC levels to hit 0.25, the territory of alcohol poisoning. If levels continue rising to 0.4 or more, this indicates the likely onset of coma, potentially with lethal consequences.
Alcohol poisoning occurs when the bloodstream contains so much alcohol that the area of the brain governing life-support functions like heart rate, breathing, and temperature regulation starts shutting down.
The most common signs of alcohol poisoning include:
- Mental confusion
- Breathing difficulties
- Slow heart rate
- Clammy skin
- Sluggish responses
- Low body temperature
- Loss of gag reflex leading to choking
Alcohol poisoning can cause permanent brain damage or even death.
Regrettably, it can be tough to differentiate between regular drunkenness and alcohol poisoning.
Up to 6 people die every day from alcohol poisoning in the United States, so it pays to be aware of possible red flags for an overdose. These are some of the early indicators:
- Slow breathing
- Pale, clammy skin
- Lack of coordination
Alcohol Poisoning Effects
The following factors can influence how much alcohol triggers alcohol poisoning:
- Tolerance for alcohol
In addition to the common signs of alcohol poisoning listed above, the following serious symptoms are classified by the CDC as life-threatening:
- Inability to wake up
- Slow breathing (8 breaths a minute or less)
- Blue hue to the skin
- Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
If unchecked, breathing issues can worsen to the extent that breathing stops completely. It is possible at this point to choke to death on vomit, particularly if you lose consciousness.
If dehydration and lowered blood sugar levels lead to seizures, this can leave you with permanent brain damage.
Can You Die from Alcohol Poisoning?
As outlined above, if you consume extremely high levels of alcohol, this can cause key areas of the brain to shut down, potentially leading to fatal coma or seizure.
While alcohol poisoning can affect all demographics, the CDC reports that it is most prevalent among men and middle-aged adults.
If you have alcohol use disorder – the clinical descriptor for alcoholism – we have a variety of gender-specific outpatient programs to help you get back on track.
- OP (outpatient program)
- IOP (intensive outpatient program)
- PHP (partial hospitalization program)
Studies show that intensive outpatient programs are just as effective as inpatient programs for treating most addictions, so you don’t necessarily need to pack your bags for residential rehab.
If you like the idea of outpatient addiction treatment but lack a supportive home environment, inquire about our sober living homes in California. Surround yourself with peers undergoing their own recovery journeys in a setting conducive to ongoing sobriety.
Anyone with a co-occurring disorder – alcohol use disorder with a co-occurring mental health condition) can access integrated treatment for both conditions through our dual diagnosis treatment program.
Whatever program for alcohol use disorder makes the right fit for you, you’ll have access to the following array of therapies here at The District:
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT)
- Talk therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy)
- Counseling (individual and group)
- Family therapy
- Holistic rehab
If you’re ready to put down the bottle and engage with a personalized treatment plan, reach out to The District today at 844.287.8506.