Accidental alcohol overdose, also referred to as alcohol poisoning, is responsible for a large number of deaths annually in the United States. Particularly vulnerable to alcohol overdose are young people and college students who in the spirit of “partying” remain unaware of the dangers involved. It is frequently found amusing when someone passes out or becomes so intoxicated that they can no longer function. It is only after that person doesn’t wake up that reality may start to set in. By then, of course, it is too late.
Binge drinkers represent another category that is quite susceptible to alcohol overdose. Those that may drink only occasionally but in large quantity put themselves at serious risk.
An alcohol overdose occurs when the body has consumed more alcohol than it is capable of metabolizing. The actual amount one must drink before reaching a dangerous level is dependent on a very large number of factors. There is really no way of saying what a safe amount may be as each individual and set of particular circumstances is different.
Alcohol poisoning has a number of potentially fatal effects on the body. Alcohol suppresses several of the involuntary nerve centers in the body, among them the gag reflex and respiratory function. Vomiting is a frequent symptom of alcohol poisoning and choking to death is a strong possibility due to the depressed gag reflex. At a certain point of intoxication the respiratory function will shut down also resulting in death. Seizures can occur as a result of severe dehydration or hypoglycemia or the heart many beat erratically and in some cases stop.
Just because someone has passed out does not mean they are out of danger. Alcohol in the stomach and bowels will continue to be released into the bloodstream, further increasing their blood alcohol levels.
Symptoms of Alcohol Overdose
- Unconsciousness (passing out)
- Unresponsive to stimuli such as pinching
- Mental confusion and stupor
- Slow or irregular breathing
- Pale or bluish tint to skin
What to do if you suspect someone of an alcohol overdose:
- First of all, know the symptoms
- Call 911, seek help immediately
- Turn the person on their side to prevent aspiration (choking)
Just assuming someone will “sleep it off” is a bad idea that can place their life in danger and make a bad situation much worse. Many lives may have been saved if only well meaning friends had simply taken action. Unfortunately the most difficult thing for many people seems to be making the decision to seek help. Often trying to avoid embarrassment, possible legal issues, or public humiliation can have fatal consequences.
Once medical help has been acquired, the alcohol overdose victim has an excellent chance of full recovery. The important thing is that someone take the initiative to seek immediate help when the situation calls for it.