Alcohol poisoning is a severe and potentially fatal physical reaction to an alcohol overdose. It is the most serious consequence of binge drinking. When excessive amounts of alcohol are consumed, the brain is deprived of oxygen. The struggle to deal with an overdose of alcohol and lack of oxygen will eventually cause the brain to shut down the voluntary functions that regulate breathing and heart rate.
The liver is responsible for metabolizing (detoxifying) alcohol and removing it from the body. On average, the liver metabolizes one ounce of alcohol per hour. (One ounce is equivalent to 2.5 ounces of 80 proof hard liquor, 20 ounces of 5% beer, or 7 ounces of 13% wine.) If you consume one ounce of alcohol, your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) will drop to zero about one hour after it is absorbed. Consuming more than one ounce of alcohol per hour means that alcohol levels are building in the bloodstream. Large amounts of alcohol consumed too quickly can lead to alcohol poisoning. Toxic levels occur at around .40 BAC and leads to depression of the Central Nervous System, unconsciousness (passing out), respiratory and/or cardiac failure, coma, and death. Death from alcohol poisoning has occurred in BAC levels as low as .20, especially in individuals who have a low tolerance for alcohol. Vomiting results from the body’s attempt to rid it from toxins. Individuals who pass out from acute alcohol poisoning can vomit while unconscious and asphyxiate.
Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
- Cold, clammy, pale, and/or bluish skin
- Slow or irregular breathing (less than 8 breaths a minute or 10 or more seconds between breaths
If a person is known to have consumed large quantities of alcohol in a short period of time (binged), NEVER leave a person alone to “sleep off” their alcohol. Alcohol poisoning can result in death. There are also no remedies to “sober up” quickly. Only the passage of time will rid the person’s system of the alcohol.
If a person is exhibiting any signs of alcohol poisoning, call for help immediately. Call 911 or University Police at 337-482-6447 to obtain assistance.