Alcohol overdose is a dangerous medical condition that can occur when you drink a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time.
There are a variety of ways you can overdose on alcohol, including binge drinking and mixing alcohol with other substances, so it’s vital to know when you may have had too much.
Luckily, there are some distinguishable signs and symptoms that can help you identify alcohol overdose in yourself or someone else.
Common Symptoms Of Alcohol Overdose
Alcohol use can affect many different parts of your body, including your brain and your body’s ability to regulate certain necessary functions.
As a result, when the amount of alcohol you consume is too high, you may be unable to perform certain tasks or your body may fail to work the way it needs to in order to survive.
Symptoms of alcohol poisoning can range in severity, and some may be more obvious than others.
One commonly known effect of alcohol intoxication is slurred speech. Alcohol is a depressant, meaning it affects the central nervous system (CNS) and slows down the brain, impacting certain functions, such as speech, coordination, and decision-making..
People who have had too much to drink will often slur their words and have a difficult time getting through their sentences.
This way of speaking can be a quick and easy way to tell that someone may have overdosed on alcohol.
Another common side effect of alcohol intake is poor coordination. Alcohol can affect the coordination centers in your brain, making it more likely to stumble or run into things.
When it comes to alcohol poisoning, this effect can become severe which often causes people to fall over or injure themselves.
Confusion can occur when you drink alcohol in general, but severe confusion is a sign of alcohol overdose.
Alcohol can slow your brain’s ability to process information which can lead to confusion and other mental symptoms.
One of the more sure-fire ways to identify alcohol overdose is seizures. When alcohol poisoning is severe, some people may experience seizures.
This symptom can, of course, lead to other harmful effects on the body. Seizures are a serious condition that should be taken lightly and can lead to more injury.
Bluish Or Pale Skin
Alcohol can also affect areas of the brain that regulate temperature and breathing. This can lead to lower than normal body temperatures and irregular breathing.
When you have a low body temperature or are deprived of the proper amount of oxygen, your skin can become pale or bluish. Blue, clammy skin may signify overdose.
Alcohol overdose may lead to trouble breathing. Alcohol’s depressant effects mean that it may slow breathing to dangerously low levels.
This may be a greater risk if alcohol has been mixed with other central nervous system depressants, such as heroin, other opioids, or even over-the-counter drugs.
Other Alcohol Overdose Signs
There are other signs of alcohol overdose that can be useful in identification. These can include vomiting, slow heart rate, slow breathing, and loss of consciousness (passing out).
Vomiting multiple times can often signify that you have had too much to drink as your body is trying to get rid of the excess alcohol.
On the other hand, alcohol poisoning can cause your heartbeat to slow down too much, leading to loss of consciousness and even cardiac arrest.
Tests For Alcohol Overdose
Aside from looking out for physical and mental signs of alcohol poisoning, there are also some medical tests that can be done to diagnose an overdose.
One of the most well-known ways to assess your alcohol consumption is with a breathalyzer. Breathalyzers are tools that can measure your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
They are small machines that require you to blow air into them for a specified amount of time. From there, the device will tell you your BAC.
So how can this diagnose an overdose? Well, once your BAC reaches about .25 percent, you’re likely to experience alcohol poisoning.
Another medical test used to diagnose alcohol overdose is the blood test. Much like the breathalyzer, this test assesses your BAC but through a blood draw.
It’s been found that this test is more accurate in measuring your BAC, so it is not quite as fast when it comes to results.
What To Do If Someone Is Overdosing On Alcohol
Overdosing on alcohol is a medical emergency, so if someone around you seems to be experiencing alcohol poisoning, make sure to keep these three things in mind.
First and foremost, make sure to seek medical help from a healthcare professional. This means calling 911 as soon as possible.
Alcohol overdose can cause permanent brain damage and become fatal very quickly. So it’s important that the person receives alcohol overdose treatment immediately.
Next, be sure to give the person who is overdosing water if you can. Alcohol can cause severe dehydration, so water can help combat these effects.
Lastly, alcohol can reduce your gag reflex, which can make it easy to choke on food, liquids, and even your own vomit.
Be sure to keep the person who has overdosed upright or at least on their side if they are laying down and stay by their side.
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Alcohol overdose is a serious matter and is heavily associated with alcohol use disorder and other health conditions.
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- Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs https://www.ddap.pa.gov/overdose/Pages/Alcohol-Poisoning-Overdose.aspx
- National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-dangers-of-alcohol-overdose