Alcohol Overdose

Alcohol overdose typically leads to difficulty in retaining consciousness, seizure, breathing problems, and mental confusion. 

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Alcohol Overdose

Alcohol overdose typically leads to difficulty in retaining consciousness, seizure, breathing problems, and mental confusion.

Table of Contents

The Dangers of Alcohol Overconsumption

Most individuals consume alcohol due to its calming effects, but large volumes may result in severe health complications. An alcohol overdose occurs as a result of high levels of the substances’ intake. Understanding the possible causes of overdose and its effects is essential. Keep reading for a better comprehension of the alcohol overdose statistics in the U.S, possible ways of prevention, and different treatment methods

What is an Alcohol Overdose?

Alcohol overdose occurs when there is a high volume of the substance in the bloodstream. Due to the quantity of alcohol, areas of the brain controlling life-support start to shut down. Examples of these regions include parts managing heart rate, breathing, and temperature control. When those parts begin to function inappropriately, they are major signs of alcohol overdose. 

What is a Standard Drink?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, one standard drink contains around fourteen grams of pure alcohol. The volume approximates twelve ounces of beer, which has 5% alcohol. It also equates to 5 ounces of wine containing 12% of alcohol. In distilled spirits, it measures one and a half ounces, comprising 40% alcohol.1

Every individual metabolizes alcohol differently, but the body typically processes a unit of pure alcohol every hour. Note that one unit of pure alcohol may be synonymous with a third of a glass of wine, a half-pint of beer, or a small shot of liquor. 

What Causes One to Overdose on Alcohol?

Most individuals overdose on alcohol due to blood alcohol concentration (BAC). If a person engages in binge drinking, which brings blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 or higher, overdose occurs. In women, binge drinking describes the consumption of four drinks, while it defines the intake of five drinks in men within two hours.

The Impact of BAC

The effect of alcohol in the bloodstream increases as the BAC becomes higher. An increase in BAC causes increased risks of harm, which is one of the major signs of alcohol overdose. For instance, a little upward change in BAC may result in decreased motor coordination, clouded judgment, and feelings of sickness. Note that some individuals experiencing alcohol withdrawal also have a high BAC.

When the blood alcohol concentration reaches a high level, it may result in loss of consciousness or blackouts. BAC tends to continue to increase, even when the individual stops drinking, experiences alcohol withdrawal, or becomes unconscious. The alcohol present in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and flow throughout the body.  

Alcohol Overdose Statistics

In the United States, the alcohol overdose statistics are on the increase. Excessive use of alcohol results in an annual record of 95,000 deaths or a daily record of 261 deaths.3 In 2019, 25.8% of individuals between eighteen and older reported engaging in binge drinking in the past thirty days.4

There was an increase in the rate of alcohol-related ED visits between 2006 and 2014. The alcohol overdose statistics translated to an average yearly increase of 210,000 alcohol-related emergency visits. Note that alcohol plays a role in about 18.5% of ED visits and 22.1% of loss of life related to opioids.  

What Happens to Your Body When You Have Alcohol Poisoning?

When an individual experiences alcohol poisoning, the individual experiences evident signs and symptoms. Here are some of the significant signs and symptoms of an alcohol overdose:

  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Mental confusion
  • Problems retaining focus
  • Irregular breathing pattern
  • Clammy skin
  • Slow heart rate

Possible Complications

Individuals may experience severe complications after visible signs of alcohol overdose. These include:

  • Hypothermia
  • Irreversible brain damage
  • Coma
  • Heart attack
  • Loss of life 

What Should You Do If You Think Someone May Have Alcohol Poisoning?

Watching someone display any of the symptoms of poisoning due to alcohol may result in shock and confusion. However, it is imperative to note that there are advisable steps to take to help such individuals. Here is what to do when you think someone overdosed:
  • Call 911: For immediate medical attention, you must contact medical emergency professionals. When stating over the phone that it is an emergency, stay calm, know the location, and stay on the line. Note that 911 is available 24/7, and for this reason, no time is too late for a call.
  • Do not leave the person alone: After calling the emergency number, stay close to the individual experiencing an overdose. Ensure that you follow all the necessary steps clearly stated by the health expert over the phone.
  • Help sit up the person: Sitting up the individual helps prevent them from falling asleep. It is also advisable to have them sip some water if they are awake and cover them with a warm blanket.

How Can You Prevent Alcohol Overdose?

Preventing alcohol overdose is not difficult. It is crucial to keep the following in mind when preventing an overdose: 

Drink in Moderation

One of the most effective ways to prevent symptoms of alcohol overdose is drinking below the quantity of one standard drink. For men, it is advisable to avoid consuming above two drinks a day, while women should have one. Drinking in moderation may also help in reducing the possibility of alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Do Not Drink on an Empty Stomach 

Drinking on an empty stomach makes a significant volume of alcohol get to the small intestine quickly. As such, it flows into the bloodstream and intensifies drinking effects. 

Talk to Teens

As a parent or guardian, it is advisable to speak to children about alcohol and its adverse effects. Proper sensitization reduces the tendency of teens to experience symptoms of alcohol poisoning. 

Store Products Safely

For the sake of children, it is vital to store alcohol in positions that are out of reach to them. A child has a high chance of overdosing on alcohol, even in small quantities. 

Receive Follow-up Care

Once you observe any of the symptoms of an alcohol overdose in your teen, seek help. Speak to an expert medical practitioner to help with follow-up care. 

Getting Treatment for Alcoholism After an Overdose

Here are techniques to consider for proper treatment of alcoholism after an overdose: 

  • Seek professional help: Speak to a licensed mental health professional for medical help when the signs of alcohol overdose are evident. Note that some require individuals to use certain medications or undergo therapy sessions to help alcohol withdrawal stages.
  • Inpatient treatment: During inpatient treatment, the patient gets to stay in the medical facility. The medical experts typically recommend alcohol detoxification for the patient during the recovery program and provide the necessary medications for stability.
  • Outpatient treatment: Compared to inpatient treatment, outpatient recovery programs for alcoholism typically require visits to the medical facility. Most of the sessions involve teaching patients coping mechanisms to adopt without medications.
  • Therapies: Mental health professionals usually recommend cognitive-behavioral therapy. dialectical behavioral therapy, or other therapies depending on the condition. CBT helps individuals identify negative thoughts and replace them with positive ones. DBT operates on strategies involving distress tolerance, emotion regulation, distress tolerance, and interpersonal effectiveness.5  

Get Help for Alcohol Poisoning

Overdosing on alcohol typically results in severe complications. For this reason, you should identify the significant signs of alcohol overdose early to prevent complications. Speak to a licensed doctor for help to avoid alcohol withdrawal syndrome and self-medication. 

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