Everything You Need to Know About Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is a severe and sometimes fatal consequence of accidentally or intentionally drinking too much too quickly. It causes confusion, vomiting and affects your breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and gag reflex, potentially leading to coma or death. A person with alcohol poisoning needs immediate medical attention.

Here, we give you a low-down on everything you need to know about alcohol poisoning, including the various levels of intoxication, test, and treatment.

Stages of alcohol intoxication

  1. Sobriety: Low-level intoxication is when someone takes one or fewer drinks per hour. The behavior will be regular, with no visible intoxication signs such as slurred speech or delayed reaction time. Blood alcohol content (BAC) will be shallow at 0.01 to 0.05 percent.
  2. Euphoria: A person enters the euphoria stage if they have two to three drinks in an hour. An increase in chattiness and confidence and decreased reaction time and inhibitions are some symptoms. Most people also call it being tipsy. BAC at this stage might range from 0.03 to 0.12 percent.
  3. Excitement: It’s when a man has three to five drinks and a woman two to four glasses in an hour. Some symptoms are low vision, drowsiness, emotional instability, and loss of judgment, balance, and coordination. The BAC ranges between 0.09 to 0.25 percent.
  4. Confusion: When a man consumes over five drinks, or a woman consumes over four drinks in an hour, they enter this stage. There will be emotional outbursts and significant loss of coordination. BAC ranges from 0.18 to 0.30 percent.
  5. Stupor: At this stage, people no longer respond to anything around them. The person won’t be able to walk or will pass out. They may experience seizures, breathing problems, and gag reflexes. BAC will range from 0.25 to 0.4 percent.
  6. Coma: It’s a dangerous stage where breathing and blood circulation will slow down. The motor response will be non-functional, and the body temperature will drop. BAC will be between 0.35 and 0.45 percent.
  7. Death: When the BAC reaches 0.45 percent or above, a person is likely to die from alcohol intoxication. Between 2011 and 2015, excessive drinking caused an average of 95,158 deaths in the U.S.

Test – There are two ways of checking a person’s blood alcohol content:

  1. Breathalyzer: When you drink, the alcohol moves through the bloodstream to the lungs, where it evaporates, and you breathe it out. The breathalyzer estimates BAC levels by detecting the amount of alcohol in the breath.
  2. Blood Test: A lab technician draws a small amount of blood with a needle and analyzes it for BAC. Blood tests give accurate results when conducted within 6 to 12 hours after consuming the last drink.

Treatment

Depending on the BAC level, a person suffering from alcohol poisoning might need immediate life-saving treatment. Healthcare professionals will:

  • Use intravenous (IV) fluids to treat dehydration and increase blood sugar levels.
  • Give oxygen using a nasal cannula (flexible tube clipped to the nose).
  • Use a tube to clear the stomach of toxins.
  • Start dialysis to filter alcohol from the blood if kidneys aren’t able to do their job.

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