What is Alcohol Poisoning?

What is alcohol poisoning and how does it affect the body? Learn about alcohol poisoning, symptoms, and treatment options.

The Importance of Alcohol Poisoning Awareness

Alcohol Poisoning Awareness

Drinking too much alcohol is always wrong but drinking an excessive amount of alcohol in a short time frame can lead to a life-threatening condition called alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning is characterized by severe symptoms such as vomiting, intense confusion, and possibly seizures.

It’s essential to know the symptoms of alcohol poisoning to know when to call medical professionals and how to help someone suffering from this condition.


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What is Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning is a severe and potentially life-threatening condition that occurs when someone drinks a lot of alcohol in short succession. You can get alcohol poisoning from imbibing any alcohol, including beer, liquor, or wine.

When you ingest alcohol, the alcohol compound enters the bloodstream and raises your blood alcohol content, or BAC. Although your liver breaks down alcohol, it can’t process all alcohol in your bloodstream at once. If you overwhelm your liver, you could experience alcohol poisoning and adverse side effects.

What Level is Alcohol Poisoning?

Approximately 2,200 people die from alcohol poisoning every year. Men are more likely than women to die from alcohol poisoning as well. Technically, you only have alcohol poisoning if your blood alcohol content is between 0.16% and 0.45%.
  • At between 0.16% and 0.30% BAC, a person’s decision-making becomes significantly impaired, and risks suffering from blackouts. They may also vomit or feel intense nausea.
  • At between 0.31% and 0.45% BAC, a person suffers from alcohol poisoning. Their situation is life-threatening, and the alcohol in their system may slow their bodily functions so much that they experience severe health repercussions.

Drinking too much or alcohol overdose is not the same as alcohol intoxication. Alcohol intoxication occurs after just one drink. But alcohol intoxication is not necessarily dangerous when enjoyed in moderation. Alcohol overdose is much more severe.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is incredibly dangerous, so it’s essential to know the symptoms of this condition so you or a loved one can get medical attention immediately. The most common signs of alcohol poisoning include: 1
  • Seizures, including choking or vomiting
  • Difficulty remaining conscious
  • Hypothermia
  • An irregular heartbeat or irregular breathing
  • Lack of coordination or slowed responses
  • Intense confusion
  • Blue-colored skin or cold and clammy skin
  • A strong alcohol odor around the person

When to See a Doctor

If you notice any or several of these symptoms, visit a doctor immediately. It is not necessary to have all the signs before seeking medical help. It can sometimes be difficult to decide if you think someone is drunk enough for medical intervention, but it is better to be safe. If a person experiences one symptom of alcohol poisoning, others may follow shortly as any remaining alcohol in their stomach is digested and processed by the body.

Alcohol Poisoning Causes and Side Effects

Alcohol poisoning is only caused by consuming too much alcohol in too short a timeframe. However, alcohol poisoning is more common among people already slightly intoxicated by alcohol. As you drink alcohol, your decision-making becomes impaired, so it may seem fine to drink more alcohol than your body can reasonably handle in the moment or before you’re sober.

Other risk factors for alcohol poisoning include:
  • Drinking on an empty stomach, which accelerates alcohol absorption into the bloodstream
  • Low drinking experience – teenagers or young adults who drink a lot of alcohol may not know what to expect and may over consume alcohol as a result
  • Depression or other psychological conditions – these can also impair decision-making and lead someone to consume too much alcohol at once, accidentally

Side Effects of Alcohol Poisoning

Once in the grips of alcohol poisoning, specific side effects become all that guaranteed. The most common side effects of alcohol poisoning include:
  • Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar – this may lead to the seizure symptoms described above
  • A stopped or irregular heartbeat
  • Hypothermia, which is low body temperature
  • Severe nausea or vomiting, which may lead to dehydration and further blood alcohol poisoning
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Blackouts or memory loss (amnesia)
Again, if you notice any of these symptoms in yourself or another person, seek out medical attention ASAP.

Alcohol Poisoning Diagnosis and Complications

A nurse or other medical practitioner can diagnose alcohol poisoning in minutes when you visit a medical center. The doctor might:
  • Check vital signs for any symptoms related to alcohol poisoning.
  • Check for other visible signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning, like blue-colored skin.
  • Perform blood or urine tests. These can allow medical practitioners to check for blood alcohol levels and signs of alcohol toxicity like low blood sugar.

Alcohol Poisoning Complications

It’s imperative to get someone suffering from alcohol poisoning to a medical center as quickly as possible. If left unchecked, alcohol poisoning may lead to severe complications, including but not limited to: 2
  • Severe dehydration
  • Seizures, which may lead to a coma
  • Heart attacks or other cardiovascular issues
  • Choking on vomit
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Hypothermia
  • Death
Alcohol poisoning can be severe and should be treated immediately. If you notice someone suffering from alcohol poisoning, make sure there is no other alcohol nearby that they can continue drinking. 3

Treatment for Alcohol Poisoning

Treatment for Alcohol Poisoning
Once at a medical center, a doctor can treat someone suffering from alcohol poisoning using different methods. These include:

IV Fluids

IV fluid transfusions. IV fluids include specialized mixtures of water and electrolytes presented directly to the bloodstream via a vein. Intravenous fluid transfusions are quick and efficient and can help to stabilize the bloodstream or remove toxins more quickly than drinking water.


Oxygen treatment, which may help poisoned individuals breathe more easily and restore oxygen levels in the brain.

Stomach Pumping

Stomach pumping. Stomach pumping allows doctors to get any undigested alcoholic liquids out of the stomach before the bloodstream absorbs those liquids.

Blood Filtration

Advanced blood filtration techniques. These involve filtering the bloodstream of alcohol and other toxic compounds. These techniques are invasive alcohol poisoning medical procedures but are sometimes necessary if it’s a life-or-death situation.

What Should I Do If I Have Alcohol Poisoning?

If you believe you have alcohol poisoning, try to find someone to help you contact medical professionals or dial 911 ASAP. Do not expose yourself to any more alcoholic drinks. Instead, focus on getting the medical attention you need above all else. 4

What to Remember about Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is extremely serious and should be treated as soon as it is noticed. In many cases, alcohol poisoning is a long-term symptom of alcohol addiction. Treating alcohol addiction is essential to avoid alcohol poisoning in your life.

Get Treatment for Alcohol Poisoning at Concise Recovery

If you or a loved one are suffering from alcohol addiction and/or alcohol poisoning, Concise Recovery can help. We can use various treatment methods to help you overcome your addiction and minimize the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal to prevent alcohol poisoning in the future. Additionally, we can help you accomplish long-term sobriety. Contact us today for more information.