Alcohol poisoning is a serious â and sometimes deadly â consequence of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Drinking too much too quickly can affect your breathing, heart rate, body temperature and gag reflex and potentially lead to a coma and death.
Alcohol poisoning can also occur when adults or children accidentally or intentionally drink household products that contain alcohol.
A person with alcohol poisoning needs immediate medical attention. If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, call for emergency medical help right away.
Alcohol poisoning signs and symptoms include:
It's not necessary to have all the above signs or symptoms before you seek medical help. A person with alcohol poisoning who is unconscious or can't be awakened is at risk of dying.
If you suspect that someone has alcohol poisoning â even if you don't see the classic signs and symptoms â seek immediate medical care. Here's what to do:
It can be difficult to decide if you think someone is drunk enough to warrant medical intervention, but it's best to err on the side of caution. You may worry about the consequences for yourself or your friend or loved one, particularly if you're underage. But the consequences of not getting the right help in time can be far more serious.
Alcohol in the form of ethanol (ethyl alcohol) is found in alcoholic beverages, mouthwash, cooking extracts, some medications and certain household products. Ethyl alcohol poisoning generally results from drinking too many alcoholic beverages, especially in a short period of time.
Other forms of alcohol â including isopropyl alcohol (found in rubbing alcohol, lotions and some cleaning products) and methanol or ethylene glycol (a common ingredient in antifreeze, paints and solvents) â can cause other types of toxic poisoning that require emergency treatment.
A major cause of alcohol poisoning is binge drinking â a pattern of heavy drinking when a male rapidly consumes five or more alcoholic drinks within two hours, or a female rapidly consumes at least four drinks within two hours. An alcohol binge can occur over hours or last up to several days.
You can consume a fatal dose before you pass out. Even when you're unconscious or you've stopped drinking, alcohol continues to be released from your stomach and intestines into your bloodstream, and the level of alcohol in your body continues to rise.
Unlike food, which can take hours to digest, alcohol is absorbed quickly by your body â long before most other nutrients. And it takes a lot more time for your body to get rid of the alcohol you've consumed. Most alcohol is processed (metabolized) by your liver.
The more you drink, especially in a short period of time, the greater your risk of alcohol poisoning.
One drink is defined as:
Mixed drinks may contain more than one serving of alcohol and take even longer to metabolize.
In addition to checking for visible signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning, your doctor will likely order blood and urine tests to check blood alcohol levels and identify other signs of alcohol toxicity, such as low blood sugar.
Severe complications can result from alcohol poisoning, including:
To avoid alcohol poisoning:
Home remedies for alcohol poisoning won't work. This is an emergency situation.
You can't reverse the effects of alcohol poisoning, and you could actually make things worse through some actions. Here's what doesn't work:
A number of factors can increase your risk of alcohol poisoning, including: