What is alcohol poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning is what happens if someone drinks far too much in a short amount of time. This is different from being drunk or having a little too much to drink. Alcohol poisoning is life-threatening. A person with alcohol poisoning could stop breathing or choke on his or her own vomit.

What are the symptoms of alcohol poisoning?
Some of the symptoms are the same as those for a person who is “just drunk.” For instance, people who have alcohol poisoning can seem confused or have trouble standing up. But some of the other symptoms of alcohol poisoning are more serious. Alcohol poisoning can slow or stop a person’s breathing. It can also cause seizures or an irregular heartbeat.

Get help if one who has consumed alcohol:

  • Stops breathing or goes 10 seconds or more without breathing
  • Is breathing very slowly (fewer than 8 breaths in 1 minute)
  • Turns blue or very pale, and his or her skin feels cool to the touch
  • Has a seizure
  • Is passed out and cannot be woken up at all
  • Cannot stop vomiting
  • Looks very sick

What can you do at home to help keep someone safe? For people who have been drinking but do not seem to need emergency care, you can:

  • Keep checking their breathing and call for help, if their breathing slows too much or stops
  • Lay them on their side, so that they do not choke on their own vomit if they throw up
  • Check them for bumps, bruises, bleeding, or any sign of injury
  • Make sure they stay warm (use blankets)

Is there anything doctors can do to get the alcohol out of your system?
No. Alcohol is absorbed into the body very quickly. It does no good to empty the stomach. There is nothing that can soak up or cancel out the effects of the alcohol. The only thing that gets rid of alcohol in the body is time.

What will the doctors at the hospital do? If someone goes to the emergency room with alcohol poisoning, the doctors there can make sure that the person:

  • Keeps breathing. (If the person stops breathing, the doctors can put him or her on a breathing machine.)
  • Gets fluids through a tube in a vein (IV) if needed.
  • (This can be important if the person has been vomiting a lot.)
  • Is healthy except for the alcohol. People who have been drinking sometimes have other problems that are tough to spot, because they cannot tell you what they are feeling. For instance, people who have been drinking often fall down or otherwise hurt themselves.
  • Doctors can use x-rays and other tools to spot possible injuries or other health problems.

If someone you know drinks so much that you are afraid for his or her safety, that might be a sign of a drinking problem. When he or she recovers, it might be good to sit down and talk about what happened. Suggest speaking to a doctor, nurse, or mental health expert who can help diagnose and treat a drinking problem.

These tips are given to inform you only and are not intended to be exhaustive,
nor a substitute for your own doctor’s care.

Submitted by Dr Vishal R  Maharaj
Specialist Physician