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What You Need to Know About Alcohol Poisoning

a man sits on the floor holding his stomach as he considers alcohol poisoning symptoms vs. being drunk

If you believe someone is overdosing on alcohol, call 911 right away. An alcohol overdose, also known as alcohol poisoning, occurs when someone drinks so much alcohol that it overwhelms the bloodstream. It can worsen or stops the brain’s ability to get the body to perform basic tasks like breathing or keeping the heart beating. Alcohol poisoning is extremely dangerous and life-threatening. If you believe someone is suffering from alcohol poisoning, you seek emergency services immediately. If you’re not sure about alcohol poisoning symptoms vs. being drunk, you may want to reach out to the team at Vertava Health Texas.

At Vertava Health Texas, our alcohol detox and rehab programs are designed to help you through every step of your alcohol addiction journey. We offer a variety of services, including detox, inpatient rehab, and outpatient care. Our programs are tailored to your unique needs and situation, so you can get the most out of your treatment. To learn more about our alcohol addiction treatment options, please contact Vertava Health Texas today at 844.311.8395.

Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms vs. Being Drunk

It can be difficult to tell the difference between alcohol poisoning and being drunk. Both conditions involve impairments to your motor skills, judgment, and speech. However, there are some key differences between the two.

  • Alcohol poisoning often occurs after a period of binge drinking, whereas being drunk typically happens after drinking alcohol over a longer period of time.
  • Alcohol poisoning symptoms also tend to be more severe than those of being drunk.
  • Someone who is drunk may stumble or slur their words, whereas someone with alcohol poisoning may vomit or pass out.
  • Alcohol poisoning can also lead to severe health problems.

Another question many people ask is, how long does alcohol poisoning stay? Alcohol poisoning symptoms typically peak within 2-4 hours after drinking and can last for 24 hours or more. Alcohol poisoning symptoms the next day are also possible, but if the person seeks medical attention, they will likely recover.

Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning can have many symptoms depending on how severe the overdose is. These symptoms can include:

  • Extreme confusion or inability to have complete thoughts
  • Excessive vomiting
  • Irregular or slow breathing
  • Slower than average heart rate
  • Slowed reflexes, which can also involve having little to no gag reflex (the reflex used to prevent choking)
  • Clammy or cold, sweaty skin
  • Skin that may be blue or grey depending on the complexion and is unusually cool to the touch or appearing unusually pale

Alcohol poisoning can often make a person feel nauseous. They may also feel like their body is extremely heavy. People experiencing alcohol poisoning often have extreme symptoms of drunkenness, like an inability to think clearly and feeling very tired.

What to Do If You’re With Someone Who Has Alcohol Poisoning

If you are with someone who is overdosing, seek medical assistance immediately. While you are waiting for medical personnel, do not try any quick fixes like coffee or a cold shower. This will not help and could cause more harm. Be prepared to provide medical personnel with information such as:

  • The type or types of alcohol the person drank
  • How much alcohol the person drank
  • Any illegal drugs you know or believe the person may have mixed, like alcohol and cocaine
  • Medications you know the person is on
  • Any allergies the person may have
  • Any health conditions the person has

They also can be extremely uncoordinated and are in danger of falling and hurting themselves if they attempt to move. It is best to stay with someone who has overdosed on alcohol and keep them as low to the ground as possible. If someone is very nauseous, do not induce vomiting. If someone is already vomiting, help them lean forward to stop them from choking. However, if someone is not moving or passed out on the ground, roll them onto their side to prevent them from choking. Do not leave someone suffering from alcohol poisoning alone. Alcohol poisoning puts someone at a very high risk for vomiting and choking, which can cause suffocation and brain damage or death.

What Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) Means

Blood alcohol content (BAC) is simply the percentage of alcohol that makes up a person’s bloodstream. In Texas, 0.08% is the legal limit for driving. The amount of alcohol someone has to drink to get to a specific BAC varies depending on many factors. Those factors that typically affect BAC include:

  • The number of standard-sized alcoholic drinks they’ve had
  • Their body weight
  • Their sex and potentially hormones
  • Medications they are on
  • The amount of food they have in their system
  • The amount of water in their system
  • How much time there was between drinks

Weight is a major determining factor when it comes to BAC. For someone who weighs 140 pounds, a BAC level of 0.08% occurs after drinking about two to three drinks over the course of about one hour. For someone who is 140 pounds, to get to a 0.31% BAC would typically require about ten drinks consumed in one hour. But these are just estimates that don’t take into account all of the other factors that can affect BAC.

Long-Term Side Effects of Alcohol Poisoning

A single occurrence of alcohol poisoning has the potential to do long-term or even permanent damage to the body in extreme cases. Severe alcohol poisoning has been known to lead to brain damage, commonly caused by suffocation or a blockage that causes air to not be able to get to the brain for a period of time. It can also be caused by seizures, which can be an effect of alcohol poisoning. This damage can be permanent and change things like a person’s cognitive ability, motor skills (ability to move the body as you want), or other issues with the body.

The exact effects differ depending on the person, the part of the brain affected, and how severely it is damaged. In severe cases, alcohol poisoning can also lead to comas, where a person is alive but unable to regain consciousness. While people sometimes only spend short periods in a comatose state, comas can go on for years. Sometimes if a patient goes into a hypothermic state or has an extremely low body temperature, it can cause a heart attack. A heart attack can cause permanent damage to the heart.

How to Prevent Alcohol Poisoning

Having a casual drink or two does not automatically lead to alcohol poisoning. You can do plenty of things to prevent alcohol poisoning from happening to you or a loved one. Here are steps you can take to avoid alcohol poisoning:

  • Drink in moderation – Alcohol poisoning occurs as a result of binge drinking or drinking a lot of alcohol very quickly. Drink slowly and give your body time to process the alcohol you’ve already had before you drink more.
  • Always eat before you drink – Eating will not stop alcohol poisoning if it is already happening. It will not prevent alcohol poisoning if you drink in extreme amounts. However, having food in your stomach does moderate, or slow down, the rate at which your body absorbs the alcohol you consume.
  • Make sure the people in your life know the facts about alcohol poisoning – People who know how to monitor the warning signs of alcohol poisoning in themselves and others are less likely to experience it themselves.
  • Ensure your alcohol is stored safely – In order to prevent a child or someone in your home from accidentally getting alcohol poisoning, it is essential to keep your alcohol in a safe place. It may even be appropriate to lock your alcoholic beverages away and out of reach of children.

Treatment at Vertava Health Texas

Here at Vertava Health Texas, we have an excellent alcohol rehab program for people who are struggling with alcohol addiction. Not everyone battling alcohol misuse suffers from acute alcohol poisoning, but many do. Knowing the signs and symptoms helps you know when it is time to get help. Our alcohol treatment program helps clients begin their recovery journey in a safe, stable environment and allows them to build a strong foundation for long-term sobriety.

Our program is specialized to fit the needs of individual clients, so rehabilitation might look different from one person struggling with alcohol to the next. In most cases, our alcohol use disorder (AUD) treatment program typically lasts 30-90 days. Many of our clients begin treatment with detox, which is monitored closely by an experienced, qualified medical professional. At Vertava Health Texas, we offer medication-assisted detox, a form of detoxing where a client is prescribed medication to aid in the detox process. Medication often makes detoxing a more comfortable process. Therapy options in our AUD treatment program include:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT)
  • Dialectical behavior therapy (DBT)
  • Family therapy
  • Adventure and nature therapy

We also offer our clients extensive substance misuse education and additional activities to help them learn how to have fun without substances.

Get Help Today

If you or a loved one is currently experiencing alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately. If you or a loved one has experienced alcohol poisoning in the past, it could be a telltale sign of a struggle with alcohol addiction. Get the treatment you and your family deserve. Start today by calling 844.311.8395.