Alcohol Poisoning: Causes, Signs, Symptoms, What NOT to Do!

Alcohol poisoning is the result of drinking too much alcohol too quickly. It’s potentially life-threatening.


          1. What is Alcohol Poisoning?
          2. Signs and Symptoms.
          3. What to Do.
          4. What NOT to Do.
          5. Risk Factors.
          6. Treatment.
          7. Prevention.
          8. Alcohol Poisoning Facts.
          9. Resources.

I. What is Alcohol Poisoning?

Such drinking leads to a dangerously high blood alcohol concentration (BAC). When it becomes too high, the brain becomes very impaired. It can’t regulate breathing, heartbeat, and other essential functions. Untreated, alcohol poisoning can lead to death.

II. Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

Any of these signs may result from alcohol poisoning. Don’t wait for someone to have more than one symptom. If in doubt, call 911 immediately for emergency medical help. Don’t let fear of possible punishment lead to delay. Letting a person die is much worse than punishment.

Both states and colleges often have medical amnesty or good Samaritan laws or policies. Better safe than sorry. So call 911 if a person who has been drinking shows any of these symptoms.

    • Abnormal breathing. Long periods (over ten seconds) between breaths.
    • Breathing very slowly (less than eight breaths per minute).
    • Confusion
    • alcohol poisoningIncoherence
    • Loss of bladder or bowel control.
    • Low body temperature (hypothermia).
    • Pale skin, possibly very slightly bluish.
    • Passing out.
    • Seizing
    • Unresponsive but conscious (stupor).

Failure to get medical help might result in

    • Lack of breathing.
    • Heart attack.
    • Coma
    • Needless death.

III. What to Do

After calling 911, help the person until medical help comes. Do this.

    • Keep the person awake if possible.
    • Inform the person about what’s happening. Explain that you’re helping them. Otherwise, some intoxicated people become aggressive.
    • If the person is conscious, try to get them to sip water.
    • Keep the person sitting.
    • If the person is unconscious and lying down, prevent them from chocking on their vomit. Do this by rolling them on their side with their arms extended above their head.
    • Cover the person with a blanket, coat, or similar material for warmth.
    • Stay with the person until medical help arrives.

IV. What NOT to Do

Never do any of the following.

    • alcohol poisoningFeed the person food.
    • Give the person any meds.
    • Leave the person alone.
    • Let the person sleep.
    • Lie the person on their back.
    • Permit the person drink more alcohol.
    • Put person in a cold shower.
    • Serve the person coffee.
    • Try to make the person vomit.
    • Walk the person around.

V. Risk Factors


Age. Young adults are more likely to drink excessively and to overdose.

Gender. Men are more likely than women to drink heavily. Thus, they have a greater risk. Also, alcohol is sexist. Let’s say a woman weighs the same and is tall as a man. Yet she will feel the effects of alcohol much more than he will. It may be unjust, but true.

Body Size. Being small increases BAC, other things being equal.

Tolerance. Having a high tolerance for alcohol increases the risk.

Heavy Drinking. So-called binge drinking increases the risk.

Certain Health Conditions. Health problems such as diabetes increases the risk of suffering alcohol overdose.

Some Drugs. Certain drugs reduce the sensation of intoxication. So they increase the risk.

VI. Treatment

alcohol poisoningAlcohol overdose is generally treated in an emergency room. The doctors monitor vital signs, including heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature.

As needed, they provide treatments. These may include things such as the following.

    • Provide fluids or meds intravenously. That is, through a vein.
    • Give oxygen.
    • Inject thiamin and/or glucose to prevent, if possible, brain or other damage.

VII. Prevention

The way to prevent alcohol poisoning is either to abstain or to drink in moderation. Here are some tips for moderate drinking.

alcohol in the body
Standard Drinks
    • Remember this important fact. A glass of dinner wine, a bottle of beer, and a shot of spirits are all equal in pure alcohol contents. Each has six-tenths of an ounce. Learn more at Standard Drinks.
    • Pace your drinks. A good rule of thumb is one drink per hour.
    • Don’t drink on an empty stomach.
    • Munch or nibble while drinking.
    • Sip and savor your drinks. Don’t gulp them.
    • Avoid drinking games.
    • Accept a drink only when it fits into your pace of drinking.
    • Alternate non-alcoholic with alcoholic drinks.
    • Avoid punches and drinks in containers of unusual size. It’s hard to space them properly.
    • Follow any medical advice about drinking with meds.
    • Remember that alcohol is sexist.

VIII. Alcohol Poisoning Facts

alcohol poisoning

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports the serious nature of alcohol poisoning. There are “2,200 alcohol poisoning deaths in the United States each year. That’s an average of six alcohol poisoning deaths every day.”
  • Those at highest risk are college students, alcoholics, and those taking certain meds.
  • BAC can rise for 30-40 minutes after the last drink. So a person with alcohol poisoning may get much worse.
  • A person who has passed out from drinking too much may die.
  • Even if the victim lives, an alcohol overdose can lead to irreversible brain damage.

IX. Alcohol Poisoning Resources

Alcohol Overdose: The Dangers of Drinking Too Much.

Facts About Alcohol Overdose.

Alcohol Overdose.