safety medical

Alcohol Poisoning

Drinking is an acceptable part of our society. We drink to celebrate, to run from problems, and just to have fun. However, sometimes, drinking too much too quickly can lead to alcohol poisoning.

What is alcohol poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning is a result of drinking too much alcohol too quickly. It can be life-threatening. The body cannot effectively handle that much. The liver may find it difficult to filter through all the alcohol. And, the blood stream becomes diluted with ethanol, making it difficult for the body to function correctly.

Ethanol is known to hinder the central nervous system. As more and more ethanol enters the bloodstream, the central nervous system (CNS) becomes starved of its much need workers, and gradually begins to shut down. The CNS is the pathway to the brain. Failure of the central nervous system can lead to trouble breathing, and cardiac (heart) difficulties.

Signs/Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

Someone experience alcohol poisoning may suffer from the following:

  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Changes in skin color (cyanic)
  • Problems breathing (slowed and/or labored)
  • Unresponsiveness, or passing out
  • Dehydration

How long does it last?

The body will work intently on removing the toxin (the alcohol). However, the poisoning may last for a few hours if it isn’t addressed. Alcohol poisoning may lead to death without medical intervention.

Alcohol Poisoning Treatment

There are important steps to take in case of alcohol poisoning.

  • Make sure the person is able to breathe.
  • Help him (or her) if they are vomiting, and place them on their side so it can “flow out” easier.
  • Call for help!
  • If able, give the patient water. Do NOT give them other fluids (such as tea or coffee). This can increase the risk of dehydration.
  • Try to keep the victim from lying down. A sitting-up position is best (if the situation permits).

Once admitted to the hospital, the person suffering from alcohol poisoning may have his/her stomach pumped to stop the alcohol from spreading any further. An IV may be inserted to promote hydration. If needed, medications may be administered. Overall, specific treatment depends on the severity of the situation.


The overall prognosis would depend on the patient’s own body. A healthier body would be able to heal much more quickly than a compromised body. In most cases, a compromised liver (and body) can metabolize the high levels of ethanol with enough time. However, there are still cases where alcohol poisoning results in death.

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