Alcohol overdose is a serious and life-threatening situation that can arise when you drink too much alcohol in one sitting for your body to handle.
There are a variety of causes and risk factors of this condition as well as signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning that may help identify it.
Causes Of An Alcohol Overdose
Alcohol overdose is more common than you may think. Though it’s associated with drinking too much in one sitting, there are other causes that can contribute to alcohol overdose.
When you become too intoxicated from alcohol, your risk of overdosing becomes much higher. This is a problem typically seen with binge drinking.
Binge drinking is a drinking pattern that involves consuming a large number of alcoholic drinks in a short period of time.
Though this can range from person to person, binge drinking brings your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to at least 0.08 percent.
By consuming large amounts of alcohol faster than your body can process it, you increase your risk of developing alcohol poisoning or overdosing.
Mixing Alcohol With Other Substances
Another cause of alcohol overdose is mixing alcohol with other substances. It’s common for people to consume alcohol alongside other substances like illicit drugs.
Depending on what substances you mix with alcohol, it is possible for your risk of alcohol poisoning to be much higher.
In addition to mixing illicit drugs with alcohol, mixing prescription drugs with alcohol can also cause alcohol overdose.
For example, certain medications like some antibiotics, painkillers, or antihistamines can have harmful reactions when mixed with alcohol.
In some cases, prescription medications can magnify the effects of alcohol, making smaller amounts more potent and likely to cause overdose.
Other Alcohol Overdose Causes
Other alcohol overdose causes may be less common but are still possible. For instance, there are other household items that contain alcohol that can lead to overdose.
Some examples of these items include:
- rubbing alcohol
- cooking extracts
The ingestion of these items may be more of a concern for young children who may not know what they’re consuming. In other words, it’s important to look out for alcohol overdose even in this case.
Symptoms Of An Alcohol Overdose
Alcohol overdose is life-threatening and requires medical help. That being said, knowing the symptoms of alcohol overdosing can help save a life.
Changes In Mental State
One common sign of alcohol poisoning is a change in mental state. Alcohol can alter your ability to analyze information and make decisions, which can change your mental state.
These changes vary but can manifest as confusion, stupor, loss of consciousness, slurring of speech, and passing out.
One of the most obvious symptoms of alcohol overdose is vomiting. Alcohol is known for irritating the stomach lining which can cause nausea and heartburn.
However, when your alcohol levels are too high, your body responds by vomiting, often multiple times.
This poses many dangers, as vomiting does not lower your BAC. Additionally, it’s possible to choke on your own vomit when intoxicated as alcohol reduces your gag reflex, which can lead to death.
Pale Or Blue Skin
Pale/blue skin or low body temperature can also be a sign of alcohol overdose. Alcohol affects the areas of the brain that regulate your temperature and breathing.
Additionally, alcohol consumption can cause slow breathing, which reduces the amount of oxygen that gets to other parts of your body.
As a result, when someone overdoses on alcohol, they will often have pale/blue or cold/clammy skin.
Arguably the most concerning symptom of alcohol overdose is cardiac arrest. In addition to slowing your breathing and affecting your body temperature, alcohol can slow your heart rate because it’s a depressant.
In extreme cases, this can lead to cardiac arrest. When your heart rate becomes too slow, it can cause bradycardia, which is simply an abnormally slow heartbeat.
Risk Factors For Alcohol Overdose
In addition to the variety of causes of alcohol overdose, there are also risk factors that make alcohol overdose more likely.
The size of your body may increase your chances of overdosing on alcohol. This is because your height and weight can affect how quickly your body metabolizes alcohol.
Typically, the smaller you are, the slower your body can process alcohol. In other words, thinner and shorter people are more at risk of overdosing on alcohol.
Age can also increase your chances of alcohol overdose. As you get older, your body processes alcohol more slowly, leading to a higher BAC and risk of overdose.
On the other hand, younger individuals like teens and young adults can also be at high risk for alcohol overdose due to the popularity of binge drinking in these age groups.
Gender is another risk factor that can go either way when it comes to alcohol overdose. When it comes to men, research has shown they are more likely to binge drink, increasing their risk of overdose.
However, women can become intoxicated by drinking less alcohol than men, which can lead to overdose much faster.
Mixing alcohol with other substances can increase your risk of alcohol overdose. As a result, people who abuse drugs can be more likely to overdose on alcohol.
This is because certain drugs can affect the natural functions of your body like alcohol, which can lead to hazardous side effects and overdose.
Lastly, a risk factor for alcohol overdose is your tolerance level. Much like other kinds of substance use, as you increase your tolerance, you’re more likely to need more alcohol to achieve the same effects.
In the long run, this can make it much more likely that you’ll drink an amount of alcohol that will lead to overdose.
How An Alcohol Overdose Is Treated
Alcohol overdose is serious and requires immediate medical attention for treatment. Fortunately, there are treatment options for alcohol overdose.
Alcohol Overdose Antidote
When it comes to alcohol overdose, metadoxine is sometimes used as an alcohol overdose antidote to clear alcohol from the blood faster. There are also other procedures used to achieve this effect.
These procedures can include stomach pumping or flushing and hemodialysis, which is essentially mechanical filtration of the blood to remove the alcohol from it.
Fluids And Medications
In addition to procedures, alcohol overdose is also treated with fluids and medications. People who have overdosed on alcohol are often given an IV to provide fluids and other nutrients they may have lost.
Additionally, certain medications and oxygen may be given to help treat other symptoms of alcohol overdose.
How To Prevent Overdosing On Alcohol
It’s possible to prevent overdosing on alcohol if you keep a few things in mind. The only way to completely prevent alcohol overdose is to avoid drinking.
That being said, you can avoid overdosing by drinking responsibly. This means limiting your alcohol use and not mixing it with other substances.
Additionally, a good rule of thumb is to drink a glass of water in between drinks, avoid drinking on an empty stomach, and space drinks out over time.
People with an alcohol use disorder (alcohol addiction) will have a hard time limiting drinks. For this reason, treatment and alcohol recovery are the only true ways to avoid negative consequences of drinking alcohol, including alcohol overdose.
Treatment Programs For Alcohol Addiction
Treatment programs for alcohol addiction can help prevent alcohol overdose. However, finding the right healthcare professional can be difficult.
Located in Massachusetts, Bedrock Recovery Center is a highly established treatment provider. We offer treatment for all kinds of substance abuse including alcohol, opioids, and other drugs.
With options like help with detoxification, medication-assisted treatment, as well as inpatient and outpatient programs, you’ll get the right treatment for you.
Find Alcohol Addiction Treatment At Bedrock Recovery Center
Are you or a loved one battling alcohol addiction? Call our helpline at Bedrock Recovery Center as soon as possible and be connected with effective alcohol treatment options.
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) — Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-dangers-of-alcohol-overdose
- Mayo Clinic — Alcohol Poisoning https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-dangers-of-alcohol-overdose
- The University of Tennessee Knoxville — Recognizing Alcohol Overdose/Poisoning https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-dangers-of-alcohol-overdose