Alcohol Poisoning - Know The Risks: Driving Under The InfluenceUpdated Dec. 25, 2020
If your blood alcohol concentration surpasses a safe level, you can become dangerously ill very quickly. This is known as alcohol poisoning; it occurs when your liver is overwhelmed by the amount of alcohol in your blood and can no longer filter it rapidly enough to protect you. The effects of alcohol poisoning are often severe and frequently lead to brain damage or death.
Young people and teenagers are affected by alcohol poisoning far more frequently than older adults, for two reasons:
Young people are less aware of the danger, prone to risk-taking behavior and unlikely to realize they have a low tolerance for alcohol.
Young people often engage in an excessive form of drinking known as binge drinking, during which a person consumes an excessive amount of alcohol in a single sitting.
Binge drinking is an especially dangerous way to consume alcohol. The term describes intermittent sessions of heavy alcohol consumption. For instance, a binge drinker may consume no alcohol throughout the week but then have many drinks on a Friday or Saturday evening. Technically, a man is said to be binge drinking if he consumes five or more alcoholic drinks in a row and a woman is said to be binge drinking if she consumes four or more. Usually, this drinking occurs over a very short time span of two to three hours, resulting in extremely high and dangerous BAC levels.
The symptoms of alcohol poisoning
A person suffering from alcohol poisoning requires immediate medical attention, or they may die. In a situation where your friends are drinking, you must keep an eye out for the symptoms of alcohol poisoning. This deadly condition can develop and worsen RAPIDLY, especially when consuming a lot of alcohol in a short time (as would be the case with drinking “challenges” and shots of hard liquor).
A person with alcohol poisoning might:
- Be semiconscious or completely unconscious
- Unresponsive to pinching, shaking and other things that would usually wake a sleeping person
- Be breathing slowly or irregularly
- Have a slow heart rate or weak heartbeat
- Vomit while unconscious
- Have cold, clammy, pale or blue-tinted skin
Keep in mind that a person suffering from alcohol poisoning may only display one or two of these symptoms. If you believe that somebody is experiencing alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately.
Vomiting is a common response to drinking too much alcohol. It can help to prevent further intoxication, as your stomach will be emptied of any alcohol still waiting to be absorbed into the blood through your intestines. However, vomiting up alcohol does not mean a person is out of danger as far as alcohol poisoning is concerned. There will still be alcohol in their blood that is waiting to be processed by the liver, which will already be under a lot of strain. Vomiting can worsen the effects of this alcohol when it is absorbed, as it rids your body of essential fluids needed to dilute the poison.
If somebody vomits after having too much to drink, make sure they replace their lost fluids by drinking water and stop them from consuming any more alcohol. It is likely that their body will still need several hours to recover from the effects of their excessively high BAC. Do not allow a person who has recently vomited to go straight to sleep, as they may vomit again while unconscious. While a sober person would usually wake up in response to nausea, an intoxicated person may be in too deep a sleep to come around and end up drowning in their own vomit.
Dealing with alcohol poisoning
If you believe a person is experiencing alcohol poisoning, your first action must be to call 911 and ask for an ambulance. Then, remember the following alcohol poisoning first-aid rules:
Try to keep the person awake or wake them up if they are already unconscious.
Roll them on to their side, where they will be less likely to choke on their own vomit.
If they are unconscious and their heart rate drops below 40 beats per minute, they are breathing less than 8 breaths per minute, or both, perform CPR.
DO NOT try to force-feed them food or coffee as they may choke.
DO NOT put them in a cold shower as their body temperature may already be dangerously low.
Do not try to make them vomit.
The 911 lifeline law
Most states have some form of a medical amnesty law that protects underage drinkers from prosecution if they report a medical emergency. This law usually applies both to drinking and possession of alcohol; in some areas, it may also cover possession of drugs. Keep in mind that in many states, only the FIRST person to report the medical emergency will be protected from prosecution. Do not hesitate to call 911 if you believe somebody needs immediate medical attention.
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