Alcohol Overdose: Causes, Risk Factors, and Symptoms

If you combine alcohol and drugs, you may not feel the effects of the alcohol. This may cause you to drink more, increasing your risk for an alcohol overdose. Many people consume alcohol because it has a relaxing effect, and drinking can be a healthy social experience. But consuming large amounts of alcohol, even one time, can lead to serious health complications. BAC can continue to rise even when a person stops drinking or is unconscious.

  • Teenagers and young adults are at a particular risk because research shows they often engage in this type of drinking.
  • But as you continue to drink, you become drowsy and have less control over your actions.
  • This may cause you to drink more, increasing your risk for an alcohol overdose.
  • It may seem like a person has to drink a lot to get to this stage.

They might “black out” without actually losing consciousness and may not be able to feel pain. Most people call this stage of intoxication being “tipsy.” A person’s alcohol overdose BAC at this stage might range from 0.03 to 0.12 percent. If you suspect an alcohol overdose and the person is unconscious, do not leave them alone.

What is an alcohol overdose?

The person may not be able to stand up, may stagger when walking, and will likely be extremely confused about what’s going on. If you drink more than this and your body isn’t able to break it down fast enough, it accumulates in your body. Alcoholic beverages contain ingredients called congeners, which give many types of alcoholic beverages their flavor and can contribute to hangovers. Congeners are found in larger amounts in dark liquors, such as brandy and bourbon, than in clear liquors, such as vodka and gin. As a general rule, the more alcohol you drink, the more likely you are to have a hangover the next day. But there’s no magic formula to tell you how much you can safely drink and still avoid a hangover.

  • Most states have Good Samaritan laws, which allow people to call 911 without fear of arrest if they’re having a drug or alcohol overdose or see someone else who is overdosing.
  • This can increase an individual’s risk of being injured from falls or car crashes, experiencing acts of violence, and engaging in unprotected or unintended sex.
  • Most people who binge drink consume an average of eight drinks per binge, though.
  • These symptoms often occur in stages, depending on how intoxicated a person is.

You may be given fluids, which may be given into your veins with a drip. You may also be given help with your breathing until the effects of the alcohol wear off. If a person does not want to stop drinking or is not yet ready to quit, there are still ways they can stay safe while drinking. A BAC above 0.40% has a risk of serious complications, including coma and death, according to MedlinePlus, a service of the National Library of Medicine.

What Is Alcohol Poisoning?

Asking for help can be scary, especially if you’re not sure what treatment can entail—but there are people who are experienced in substance use disorders who are ready to support you. Unlike lung damage, brain damage is more difficult to detect because it’s not always obvious in symptoms or with imaging after a one-time binge-drinking episode, she adds. “We’d have to follow them over time,” which means that a patient can experience symptoms of brain damage that can go undetected for quite some time. One of the main concerns for people who lose consciousness is the risk of choking on their vomit and dying from a lack of oxygen or the lungs becoming damaged from aspiration, Dr. Farmer says. A telltale sign that a person is unconscious and not just asleep is their inability to be woken, per the Mayo Clinic, in which case, you want to seek immediate medical attention.

signs of alcohol overdose

Alcohol intoxication refers to a temporary condition that occurs when a person drinks an excess of alcohol at one time. It causes physical and behavioral symptoms that range from mild to severe. People who binge drink (drink more than five drinks in an hour) are also at risk for alcohol overdose.

Prevention

If an individual drinks alcohol on an empty stomach, their BAC usually peaks within 30–90 minutes. After an episode of alcohol intoxication, it takes time to recover. The person will be hospitalized until their vital signs return to normal. The condition is usually linked to drinking too many alcoholic beverages.

Alcohol use disorder can include periods of being drunk (alcohol intoxication) and symptoms of withdrawal. Alcohol use disorder is a pattern of alcohol use that involves problems controlling your drinking, being preoccupied with alcohol or continuing to use alcohol even when it causes problems. This disorder also involves having to drink more to get the same effect or having withdrawal symptoms when you rapidly decrease or stop drinking.

If your pattern of drinking results in repeated significant distress and problems functioning in your daily life, you likely have alcohol use disorder. However, even a mild disorder can escalate and lead to serious problems, so early treatment is important. Consuming too much alcohol too quickly can lead to alcohol poisoning, which is marked by symptoms such as poor coordination, hypothermia, irregular heartbeat, slowed breathing, and unconsciousness.

In fact, the smaller-bodied person may experience an alcohol overdose after drinking the same amount that a larger-bodied person can consume safely. If someone is experiencing any of the above symptoms during or after drinking alcohol, a person should call 911 or get them emergency medical care. So while naltrexone may be employed during treatment, it’s important to consult with a healthcare provider and/or addiction specialist to determine the best form of treatment for your unique needs. If you feel that you sometimes drink too much alcohol, or your drinking is causing problems, or if your family is concerned about your drinking, talk with your health care provider.

Chronic Conditions Related to Alcohol Misuse and Binge Drinking

Alcohol intoxication occurs from drinking too much alcohol in a short period of time. Any of these symptoms are signs that immediate medical attention is necessary. At this stage, a person’s BAC will range from 0.25 to 0.4 percent. At this stage, a man might have consumed three to five drinks in an hour, or two to four drinks for a woman.

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