Alcohol poisoning is a serious — and sometimes deadly — consequence of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Drinking too much too quickly can affect your breathing, heart rate, body temperature and gag reflex and potentially lead to coma and death.
Alcohol poisoning can also occur when adults or children accidentally or intentionally drink household products that contain alcohol.
A person with alcohol poisoning needs immediate medical attention. If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, call for emergency medical help right away.
Alcohol poisoning signs and symptoms include:
It's not necessary to have all these signs and symptoms before you seek help. A person who is unconscious or can't be awakened is at risk of dying.
When to see a doctor
Alcohol poisoning is an emergency
Don't be afraid to get help
Alcohol in the form of ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is found in alcoholic beverages, mouthwash, cooking extracts, some medications and certain household products. Ethyl alcohol poisoning generally results from drinking too many alcoholic beverages, especially in a short period of time.
Other forms of alcohol — including isopropyl alcohol (found in rubbing alcohol, lotions and some cleaning products) and methanol or ethylene glycol (a common ingredient in antifreeze, paints and solvents) — can cause another type of toxic poisoning that requires emergency treatment.
You can consume a fatal dose before you pass out. Even when you're unconscious or you've 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.
How much is too much?
Most alcohol is processed by your liver, and in general, it takes about one hour for your liver to process (metabolize) the alcohol in one drink.
One drink is defined as:
Mixed drinks may contain more than one serving of alcohol and take even longer to metabolize.
A number of factors can increase your risk of alcohol poisoning, including:
Severe complications can result from alcohol poisoning, including:
Tests and diagnosis
In addition to checking for visible signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning, your doctor will likely order blood and urine tests to check blood alcohol levels and identify other signs of alcohol toxicity, such as low blood sugar.
Treatments and drugs
Alcohol poisoning treatment usually involves supportive care while your body rids itself of the alcohol. This typically includes:
Adults and children who have accidentally consumed methanol or isopropyl alcohol may need hemodialysis — a mechanical way of filtering waste and toxins from your system — to speed the removal of alcohol from their bloodstream.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Home remedies for alcohol poisoning won't work. This is an emergency situation.
To avoid alcohol poisoning:
Last Updated: 2013-07-23
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