Alcohol Overdose Symptoms
Drinking is common. Drinking happens at parties, holidays, while cheering on our favorite sports teams and even during common activities. And while drinking is accepted and totally normal it can become dangerous if someone is drinking to excess which even at these events can happen.
Many people enjoy drinking moderately. Drinking moderately is defined as having 1 drink per day for women and 2 for men. Drinking more than moderately or drinking too much can lead to an alcohol overdose. Alcohol overdose happens when a person has blood alcohol content (BAC) sufficient enough to produce impairments that increase the risk of them harming themselves and even others. Alcohol overdoses can range in severity from problems with balance and slurred speech to even coma or death. Age, drinking experience, gender and the amount of food eaten as well as ethnicity can all influence how much alcohol is too much.
So how do you know how much is too much? What are the alcohol overdose symptoms?
Critical or severe alcohol overdose symptoms include:
- Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or inability to wake up
- Slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute)
- Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
- Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness
Other alcohol overdose symptoms include:
- Knowing the person has consumed large quantities of alcohol
- The person is unconscious and cannot be woken up
- Person vomits while passed and does not wake up during or after
Know the danger signals or signs that someone is getting close to an alcohol overdose can help significantly in preventing an alcohol overdose. Someone who has a severe impairment but is not exhibiting life threatening symptoms will have signs such as:
- Speech, memory, coordination, attention, reaction time, balance problems
- Judgment and decision making will be severely impaired
- Vomiting and other signs of alcohol poisoning
- The beginning stages of loss of consciousness
What will happen if someone who has alcohol overdose symptoms and doesn’t get treated?
- They could end up choking on their own vomit
- Breathing that slows, become irregular, or stops
- Heart that beats irregularly stops
- Hypothermia can lead to death
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) leads to seizures
- Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting which can cause seizures, permanent brain damage and death.
Alcohol overdose symptoms are extremely dangerous and should be taken very seriously. Someone who is experiencing any alcohol overdose symptoms should be taken to a hospital immediately or 911 should be called. Here are some things you can do if you know someone is experiencing alcohol overdose symptoms:
1. Try to wake the person. Try to wake the person by calling their name, slapping their face, or pinching their skin. See if you can get a reaction that will wake the person up. Remember, just because they wake up doesn’t mean they are fine. Alcohol stays in the bloodstream until it is processed and just because you can get some reaction at 1:00 AM doesn’t mean they will still be conscious by 2:00 AM. Do not leave the person alone.
2. Check the person’s breathing. Evaluate if the person has slow or irregular breaths; less than 8 times per minute or more than 10 seconds between breaths. If they are not conscious or barely able to wake up, we need to make sure they don’t choke on their own vomit.
3. Turn the person on his/her side to prevent choking. If they are not conscious or barely able to wake up, we begin by making sure they don’t choke on their vomit. Start by putting their arm above their head. Bend their opposite knee and roll them toward you so that they are laying on their side, preferably their left side. Putting the person on their left side will slow the delivery of alcohol to the small intestine and also allows more air to surface from the right lung. This way, if they do throw up, the vomit will have a better chance of coming out.
4. Do not leave the person alone. Although it might be inconvenient, it is important to stay with someone who is extremely drunk and barely conscious. Continue to monitor their breathing, responsiveness, skin and lip color, etc.
5. If any of signs of alcohol poisoning exist, call 911