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By Boris M | 17 December, 2019 Published in Resources
2

Alcohol poisoning is a result of an individual consuming too much alcohol.

When an individual consumes too much alcohol, they often are unable to function.

Vomiting often occurs due to alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol poisoning is a profoundly critical concern. 6 people on average die per day as a direct cause of alcohol poisoning.[1]­­

This article identifies the signs, risks, and treatment options for alcohol poisoning.

How Much is too Much?

The simple answer is that there is no answer. Everyone reacts differently to alcohol intake and needs to be aware of what their limit is.

There are many factors to consider when trying to mitigate the effects of alcohol.

Some major factors are weight, age, and food consumption.

Federally, the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) allowed for a person to be able to drive a motor vehicle is 0.08 g/dL. [1]

Refer to the chart below to understand how many drinks will put a person over this legal limit.

bac chart

The body takes one hour to metabolize 0.25 oz of alcohol.

Consider this in terms of one drink. One drink is 14 grams of pure alcohol.

Broken down, this is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. [1]

When taken in large qualities, the body has trouble keeping up with the intake of alcohol, putting excess stress on the liver.

This is often when alcohol poisoning symptoms begin to show.

What are the Signs of Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning has some obvious signs which a person should not ignore. Usually, it is not the person in question who identifies these signs.

Therefore, it is important to keep an eye on your peers any time drinking is taking place.

If you believe someone you are with is showing symptoms of alcohol poisoning, call the emergency services immediately and follow the steps below.

The steps below will guide you through how to handle someone with alcohol poisoning. Do not rely on references from your friends based on what worked for them.

Some of these practices are very dangerous and can result in injury or death for the individual.

Once a person has alcohol poisoning, regardless of what is going on in the situation, they need to be the top priority and should be attended to immediately.

1. Unresponsiveness

This is the most noticeable sign a person shows when they are suffering from alcohol poisoning.

The individual is often unable to respond to commands and is unable/ unwilling to move.

The person may not respond to verbal gestures or physical assistance. They are usually barely able to talk, often heavily slurring their words.

Their eyes will be mostly closed, if not completely closed. Do not mistake this with someone simply sleeping.

If you try to wake them up and they are not responding immediately, check for the below symptoms to understand if they may have alcohol poisoning.

2. Pale Skin

This is another noticeable sign. Usually following a lack of responsiveness, a person will lose colour in their skin, sometimes revealing a blueish tinge.

This is usually a result of their body temperature being low.

However, it is a very noticeable factor. Seeing this often means they are at risk for hypothermia.

3. Vomiting

If a person consumes too much alcohol, the body will identify the danger and often try to vomit up any remaining alcohol in the stomach to alleviate stress to the liver.

Vomiting is linked to dehydration, so make sure the person is [voluntarily] drinking water after they vomit.

If a person is vomiting blood, this could be a much more severe emergency, and you should contact the emergency services immediately.

4. Confusion

If a person has alcohol poisoning, they often will not know what is going on around them. They will appear as if they are “staring into space.”

Therefore, it is important to be watchful of peers while drinking.

They often will not know what is happening to them until it is too late.

Ways to test a person’s awareness is to ask them where they are, how much they have had to drink, what day is it, etc.

5. Low Body Temperature

A person suffering from alcohol poisoning will appear to be shivering and cold.

This is usually an early sign of hypothermia.

If a person you think is suffering from alcohol poison begins shivering, get them warm and call the emergency services.

6. Irregular Heartbeat and Breathing

Hard to notice for onlookers, a person who has alcohol poisoning will experience trouble breathing and will have an irregular heartbeat.

This may be represented by shortness of breath.

7. Seizing and Coma

A late-stage symptom, a person with alcohol poisoning may (not always) begin to convulse.

Following, they may slip into a coma which may lead to serious long-term injury or death.

This is an extremely late-stage symptom of alcohol poisoning. Do not wait for a person to be in this state to contact the emergency services.

What to do if Someone you Know Has Alcohol Poisoning?

1. Remain Calm

Do not freak out, follow the steps below and the person with alcohol poisoning will be in great care.

Take control of the situation and do not let anyone else in the room recommend something which could hurt the person more.

After reading this article, you will understand exactly what to do and how to take care of the person in need.

Understand that a person who has alcohol poisoning is unable to attend to themselves and is relying heavily on you to save them.

2. Do Not Leave the Person Alone

Stay with them the entire time they are in your care. Leaving someone alone for any amount of time puts them at significant risk of further injury or death. I

f you need something brought to you or the person, have someone else bring that item.

Someone must be watching and caring for the individual the entire time.

3. Call the Emergency Services

Do not try to handle this situation on your own. Even if you are unsure if you or a friend may have alcohol poisoning, call the emergency services.

If you are a student under 21, schools often protect you from any legal implications if you call the emergency services to save someone’s life.

Do not avoid calling because you or a friend may get in trouble.

Schools focus on student safety which is why they have these policies in place.

Your local school should have that policy publicly available for you to reference.

4. Place the Person Upright

Do not lay the person down. Prop them in a corner where they have balance on two sides and can be monitored by you.

If they are not in a bathroom, provide a bin for them to vomit in if needed.

Laying a person down could make it harder for them to breathe.

Also, by keeping them propped upright, it is easier to monitor their status and keep them awake and alert.

5. Keep the Person Awake and Alert

Make sure to ask the person with alcohol poisoning questions unrelated to their current situation.

Ask them questions pertaining to their social life, stuff they enjoy such as sports, current events, etc.

Making them think will keep them awake.

Do not let the person fall unconscious for any reason, even if they say they want to sleep.

Once a person with alcohol poisoning falls asleep, it is extremely hard to wake them up and they risk slipping into a coma.

6. Give the Person Water If They Want It

Do not force-feed a person water.

If they want water to give it to them in a closed container where it can not be split if at all possible.

Monitor their water intake. Do not let them chug the water.

Make sure they take small sips over time. Chugging water may induce vomiting. Put the water in the person’s hand to drink if they can hold it.

Do not put water directly into the person’s mouth. This can cause choking which can induce vomiting and irregular breathing.

7. Keep the Person Warm

If the person is shivering, put layers on them to insulate their bodies. Keep the person warm until paramedics arrive and ensure to mention this symptom to them if this does occur.

8. Be Prepared to Answer First Responder’s Questions

First responders may ask you questions such as:

  • How much has the person had to drink?
  • When was their last drink?
  • Have they shown any of these symptoms? (Refer to the above section).
  • How long have they been in this state?

And other questions which allow them to shape the situation.

By answering these questions, you are not incriminating yourself.

You are helping first responder’s figure out how to best treat the person.

By answering honestly and clearly, you are saving that person’s life.

What NOT to Do If Someone Has Alcohol Poisoning

1. Lay Them in Bed and Check Up on Them

Do not leave a person with alcohol poisoning alone.

Not only can they injure themselves by trying to move, but they can slip unconsciously at a moment’s notice, possibly resulting in their death.

You must leave someone with the person until help arrives.

Do not assume they are getting better at any point if they are showing signs of alcohol poisoning regardless of what they say to you. Once a person becomes that inebriated, their ability to make conscious decisions is severely hindered.

Make sure that someone who is capable of making conscious decisions is in charge of the situation.

2. Try to Handle the Situation Alone

Do not try to use your limited knowledge of alcohol poisoning to save this person.

Call medical professionals who know exactly what to do and can give them the proper care.

Not calling the emergency services can have serious legal and safety implications.

Do not assume that because you have seen it before you are capable of handling the situation.

3. Put the Person in a Cold Shower to Wake Them Up

Doing so will decrease their body temperature, increasing the risk of hypothermia and shock.

Keeping a person alert is as simple as speaking to them. Keep them warm while doing so.

By exposing an almost unconscious person to cold water, you risk their body having adverse effects on the situation.

4. Give them Caffeine

Caffeine will lead to further dehydrating them. Do not give them coffee or energy drinks to try to make them more alert.

Water or electrolytes are the safest liquids to give a person with alcohol poisoning.

Caffeine products should not be ingested while drinking as a general rule.

5. Make them Walk

Once you have identified a person may have alcohol poisoning, move them to the nearest safe location such as the corner of a room where they can be propped up.

Do not move them anywhere that is a far distance such as into a bathroom as this may cause injury.

The person may be struggling to walk and can fall at any moment. Keep the person in one area until first responders arrive.

6. Take Advice from Friend’s “Experiences”

As stated before, just because someone else helping has used a certain method to help a friend with alcohol poisoning, does not mean it is a safe of effective method.

Everybody reacts differently to alcohol poisoning, and just because a method worked well on one person does not mean it will work well on another person.

Stick to these general guidelines as they are the most simple and effective methods of getting a person help.

What Will Happen in the Hospital

Firstly, doctors may insert a small tube into the patients throat to ensure constant clear breathing.

Next, they will hook the patient up to an IV drip which will rehydrate them rapidly.

If the patient is unconscious, doctors may insert a catheter into the patient’s urinary tract.

In extreme cases, doctors may have to pump the patient’s stomach to remove any excess alcohol.

Do not be alarmed by these processes which may occur. These are necessary to save a person’s life.

Do not let this discourage you from contacting the emergency services.

First responders and trained professionals know exactly what to do in these situations.

What if I Do not Call the Emergency Services?

If you decide not to call the emergency services, you are putting the person with alcohol poisoning at significant risk of injury or death.

The symptoms described above will become much worse. This may lead to increased vomiting and shock may induce.

The person may slip into a coma which may result in their death. There is little that can you can do outside a medical setting to save this person’s life.

Just because it may not look bad or you have seen them like this before, does not mean they are not in danger.

Not calling the emergency services could result in the person suffering permanent damage or death. There are also many legal repercussions to not contacting the emergency services.

The best thing to do for yourself and the person with alcohol poisoning is to call the emergency services. Put yourself in the shoes of the person with alcohol poisoning.

They want the best care possible to save them as they are in no state to save themselves. Do the right thing.

Who is at Risk of Alcohol Poisoning?

In short, everyone is. Alcohol poisoning can happen to anyone that consumes alcohol.

Alcohol poisoning is mostly prevalent in college students and adults 35-64 years old. [1] 76% of deaths from alcohol poisoning are males. [1]

The only way to mitigate risk with alcohol poisoning is to drink responsibly.

There are many government sponsored programs and local programs for people who feel they are at an elevated risk of alcohol poisoning.

How to Prevent Alcohol Poisoning

1. Drink in Moderation

Know what your limit is and what you can handle.

Do not try to drink more than you can for the sake of looking impressive in front of your peers.

Not only are you risking your health by drinking too much, but you risk your social status as well. Do not be the punchline to a drinking story the next day.

2. Eat Food Before Consuming Alcohol

A fantastic way to prevent yourself from becoming intoxicated too fast is by eating food.

Eat a meal prior to drinking, then while you drink, continue to eat food in small portions.

Food high in carbs works best in reducing the effects of alcohol. [2]

3. Talk to Your Friends and Family About It

Lead by example – If you are in college or are new to drinking, be an example for your friends to follow.

Do not drink to the point you can no longer function, and make sure your peers do the same.

Do not be afraid to cut someone off from alcohol if you feel their health is at risk.

If you feel someone in your family is suffering from alcohol-related issues, there are many online resources you can utilize to get them help.

Do not be a bystander as they risk their health by improperly using alcohol.

4. Do not Encourage Binge Drinking

There is nothing wrong with drinking socially but do not binge drink. Drink in moderation and enjoy alcohol responsibly.

References

1. Alcohol Poisoning Deaths. (2015, January 6). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/alcohol-poisoning-deaths/index.html

2. Relationships Between Nutrition, Alcohol Use, and Liver Disease. (2004, September 29). Retrieved from https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh27-3/220-231.htm

3. Vacca, V. M. & Correllus, D. F. (2013). Alcohol poisoning. Nursing, 43(4), 14–16. doi: 10.1097/01.NURSE.0000427975.97543.d5

4. Wang, C., Samaha, D., Hiremath, S., Sikora, L., Sood, M. M., Kanji, S., & Clark, E. G. (2018). Outcomes after toxic alcohol poisoning: a systematic review protocol. Systematic Reviews, 7(1). Retrieved from https://link-gale-com.prxy4.ursus.maine.edu/apps/doc/A569155917/AONE?u=maine_orono&sid=AONE&xid=230b74bc

5. Oster-Aaland, L., Lewis, M. A., Neighbors, C., Vangsness, J., & Larimer, M. E. (2009). Alcohol poisoning among college students turning 21: do they recognize the symptoms and how do they help?. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs. Supplement, (16), 122–130. doi:10.15288/jsads.2009.s16.122

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