In our last most entitled,“What is Acute Alcohol Intoxication?” we discussed acute alcohol intoxication, which is also known as acute alcohol poisoning or “alcohol overdose.” Acute alcohol intoxication is what happens when someone drinks too much alcohol too fast.
Just as someone can overdose on medication or illegal drugs, they can overdose on alcohol. If someone ingests a large amount of any alcoholic beverage, including beer, wine, or hard liquor, they can become so intoxicated that they can put their life at risk. Since women’s bodies don’t handle alcohol as well as men, they can suffer overdose easier than men and with less alcohol.
HOW DOES ALCOHOL OVERDOSE HAPPEN?
“How can someone overdose on alcohol?” Alcohol is a depressant. Once it is ingested, it slows down various bodily functions, such as breathing, blood pressure, and heart rate. When alcohol has depressed a person’s vital centers enough, the person loses consciousness. Not only that, but when someone has drunk so much alcohol that they’ve passed out (lost consciousness), the amount was close to a fatal dose.
Many people in their teens and early twenties are surprised to learn that they can die from alcohol, even if they aren’t alcoholics. Most young people think that the worst thing that will happen is they’ll pass out and have a hangover migraine the next day.
If you attend college parties, you may come into contact with someone who has been binge drinking, which is five or more alcoholic drinks in two hours for men and four or more drinks in two hours for women. You could encounter someone whose life is at risk because of acute alcohol intoxication.
Signs of acute alcohol intoxication or alcohol overdose:
- Passed out
- Slow breathing
- The skin is cold, clammy or bluish
- Vomiting (sign of alcohol poisoning and can cause death by choking or asphyxiation)
If you see someone who is exhibiting one or more of the above signs and symptoms of acute alcohol poisoning, do what you would do in any other medical emergency, call 911 right away. As you wait for an ambulance, roll the intoxicated person on their side and hold them in place by putting a small pillow, blanket, or jacket in the small of their back. You need to do this to prevent them from choking on their own vomit. Stay with the person until the ambulance or firemen arrive.
DANGERS OF SLEEPING IT OFF
You’ve probably seen people drink a lot and then appear to be “sleeping it off.” Usually, people don’t think twice about this but in reality, it can be very dangerous. It’s important that people understand that even though someone may appear to be sleeping off their alcohol, the alcohol in the stomach will continue to enter their bloodstream while they sleep. This sends the alcohol circulating through their body and can threaten their life as their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises.
If you’re concerned that someone is acutely intoxicated, you should call 911 immediately. If you leave them alone, they could wind up dying from alcohol overdose.