The Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol can easily be over consumed in both new drinkers and old, but when it comes to the symptoms of alcohol poisoning, there are a few tell tale signs that should not be ignored.
It's easy to poke fun at those having a good time under the influence. Lost inhibitions can be entertaining to watch, but how do you know when a good time has gone too far? Whether it be ourselves, friends, or a beloved family member, a night of drinking can easily go from a great time to life threatening, with many of us none the wiser.
Alcohol poisoning is a real thing and can effect multiple parts of the body (the things that happen to your body after you quit drinking are actually amazing), which can lead to a coma and even death. It is vital we all know the causes, signs, and symptoms of alcohol poisoning, and the procedures to take when dealing with someone in danger.
The Cause of Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol is a part of many peoples' lives and can easily be abused, which is why almost every college campus in the country has an educational seminar for incoming freshman about the dangers of binge drinking. Unlike food, which takes hours to absorb, alcohol is absorbed quickly and mostly by the liver. However, when your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) gets too high and the liver is unable to break it down, alcohol overtakes the body, resulting in poisoning. Over time and for frequent heavy drinkers, this will lead to severe liver damage. All at once though, and this social activity can turn lethal quickly.
Major Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning
There are many signs that someone could be in danger of alcohol poisoning even after they've stopped drinking, but these things you might not know about alcohol poisoning can be quite obvious:
Confusion and slurring. One of the first signs of an alcohol overdose is the effects of the brain, which includes confusion as to where they are, what's happening, and even who they are. This can also lead to blackouts, where the person will have no recollection of what happened while intoxicated, which is also a very common side effect of heavy drinking. The scariest part is, frequent blackouts can lead to permanent brain damage.
Vomiting. A person may not be able to tell when they consumed too much alcohol, but the stomach and intestines sure do, which is why many drinkers who overdid it vomit. The brain is basically telling the stomach to empty out in order to protect itself. Now, vomiting itself doesn't usually mean an overdose, but it's the passing out that can go along with it that is dangerous. Someone who is unconscious and needs to vomit is at an extremely high risk of choking.
Irregular or slow breathing. This means, according to Mayo Clinic, more than 10 seconds in between breaths, or less than eight breaths a minute. The other danger of irregular breathing is if he or she is vomiting, they could be at risk of inhaling their vomit into their lungs, which can cause asphyxiation.
Irregular heart rate. Caused by severe vomiting and dehydration, irregular heart rate is also a telltale sign of alcohol poisoning. Dehydration is a major side effect of any alcohol consumption, and can lower blood pressure, effectively increasing a person's heart rate. If poisoning has indeed occurred, it can also cause the heart rate to beat irregularly, and, in the worst case, even stop.
Pale, clammy, and blue-tinged skin. Not a commonly known danger linked with alcohol overdose, but a very dangerous one. When a person has consumed too much alcohol, they could suffer from hypothermia, which can cause their body temperature to drop and result in blue-tinged skin. Alcohol lowers body temperatures, yet gives the drinker a sense of warmth, and prevents their body from shivering, the body's natural defense mechanism against getting too cold.
Seizures. Dehydration, lowered blood sugar levels, and interrupted brain activity can all be the cause of an alcohol-induced seizure. If this does take place, it is vital that the person lie down, with no dangerous objects around them and their head resting on a soft surface, and, of course, call 911 immediately.
Rash. For some, it's not the excessive amount of alcohol that can cause these effects, but rather type of alcohol. Hives, red skin, swelling, and itchiness are all signs of a reaction. While a skin rash can be caused by over consumption, it can also be due to reaction or intolerance to alcohol. It may be hard to distinguish the cause of the rash, but either way, help should be called.
What to Do?
If you think a person drinking alcohol needs to exhibit all of these signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning in order for you to seek help, then you are wrong. Just a few of these, or even one, could be a sign of an alcohol overdose, which is why it's important to know how to drink but not get drunk. You should never leave an unconscious or severely vomiting person alone. Do not assume they will just stop or just sleep it off. Since he or she may be in and out of consciousness and their gag reflexes may be compromised (another side effect of an overdose), leaving them alone could put them at risk of dying. It is best to have them sitting up, but if that isn't possible, turn their head or have them lay on their side to prevent them from choking on vomit. Next, call for help. I know it can be scary to make that decision, but at the end of the day, it might be that 911 call that saves their life. Put your own fears aside, particularly if you are underage, and understand the consequences of not getting help at the right time could be much much worse.