With no gag reflex, a person who drinks to the point of passing out is in danger of choking on their vomit and dying from a lack of oxygen (i.e., asphyxiation). Even if the person survives, an alcohol overdose like this can lead to long-lasting brain damage. At our urgent care Greenville NC, we know it can be difficult to determine whether someone is simply drunk or if they need immediate medical attention. While people who are drunk may check off some of these boxes, symptoms like seizures or unconsciousness and vomiting are signs things could be serious.
Alcohol use and taking opioids or sedative hypnotics, such as sleep and anti-anxiety medications, can increase your risk of an overdose. Examples of these medications include sleep aids, such as zolpidem and eszopiclone, and benzodiazepines, such as diazepam and alprazolam. Even drinking alcohol while taking over-the-counter antihistamines can be dangerous. What tips the balance from drinking that produces impairment to drinking that puts one’s life in jeopardy varies among individuals. Age, sensitivity to alcohol (tolerance), gender, speed of drinking, medications you are taking, and amount of food eaten can all be factors.
How do you test to see if someone has alcohol in their system?
If a friend or loved one appears to have alcohol poisoning, call 911 right away. The sooner they get treatment, the more likely you can prevent severe damage. Know the danger signals, and if you suspect that someone has an alcohol overdose, call 911 for help immediately. Do not wait for the person to have all the symptoms, and be aware that a person who has passed out can die. Don’t play doctor—cold showers, hot coffee, and walking do not reverse the effects of alcohol overdose and could actually make things worse.
At this stage of intoxication, the person’s behavior will be normal with no visible signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech or delayed reaction time. Alcohol poisoning can appear similar to many life-threatening conditions. For example, hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), a stroke, or a seizure can cause problems with speech and level of consciousness that may be confused with alcohol consumption.
Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose
Alcohol poisoning can lead to permanent brain damage and death. How long alcohol poisoning last will vary from person to person based on their body, if medications were involved, how often they drink, and their blood alcohol content. In this case, it affects the parts of the brain that control vital body functions, such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure and temperature. As blood alcohol continues to rise, the depressant effect is more substantial. As blood alcohol concentration (BAC) increases, so does the effect of alcohol—as well as the risk of harm. Even small increases in BAC can decrease motor coordination, make a person feel sick, and cloud judgment.
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- We absorb alcohol much more quickly than food – alcohol gets to our bloodstream much faster.
- Know the danger signals, and if you suspect that someone has an alcohol overdose, call 911 for help immediately.
- If you are concerned that they could hurt you, maintain a safe distance while waiting for professional help.
But the results of not getting help in time can be far more serious. If you think that someone has alcohol poisoning, get medical attention right away. They may also experience seizures or have blue-tinged or pale skin. People in this stage of intoxication are very likely to forget things happening around or to them. They might “black out” without actually losing consciousness and may not be able to feel pain.
Drink no more than one alcohol-containing beverage an hour. There are several common myths about treating warning signs of alcohol poisoning alcohol poisoning. For example, some people suggest drinking coffee or taking a cold shower.