Alcohol is one of the most commonly used mind-altering substances in the world, but how dangerous is it? After all, alcohol is not just used in beverages, it can also be found in the form of ethanol in mouthwash, cooking extracts, some medications and certain household products. With that said, the short answer to the question is yes, too much alcohol will kill you. Consuming too much alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning, or an overdose on alcohol. How much is too much, though? What are the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning? What should be done if someone is suspected of having alcohol poisoning? Let’s start with the first one.
How Much is Too Much?
The exact amount of alcohol that leads to alcohol poisoning can vary. There isn’t a magic number when it comes to alcohol consumption, because there are so many factors that impact how our bodies will respond. A person’s height, weight, race, gender, experience, food consumption and more can affect how their body responds. While the amount can vary, one of the major causes of alcohol poisoning is binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as, “a pattern of heavy drinking when a male rapidly consumes five or more alcoholic drinks within two hours, or a female rapidly consumes at least four drinks within two hours.”1 When people engage in binge drinking, they often consume more alcohol than they realize. Alcohol is absorbed quickly by your body, and continues to be digested and released, after the drinking has stopped. This means that even if a person passes out or stops drinking, alcohol is still being digested and released into the bloodstream, which can lead to a fatal dose.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
Alcohol poisoning is a serious, life-threatening issue. Recognizing the signs could save your or someone else’s life. The signs of alcohol poisoning are:
- Pale, clammy, blue skin
- Slower heart rate
- Irregular or slow breathing
Someone suffering from alcohol overdose or poisoning may not have all the symptoms, but if their breathing is starting to slow, they can’t be woken up, or even if you simply suspect a person could have alcohol poisoning, then it’s time to act.
What to do if Someone is Suspected of Having Alcohol Poisoning?
The decision to act is critical, in any situation. Your ability to recognize a situation and react can save a life. It’s more important to act on the side of caution rather than think a friend is simply
, “passed out.” Once this decision has been reached, you should:
- Call 911 – Get emergency services on the phone or if there are other people around, point at one person and instruct them to call 911 while you stay with the person.
- Provide Information – The more information you can provide about the amount of alcohol consumed, how quickly, etc.,
Tthe quicker medical personnel can respond.
- Don’t Leave the Person Alone – A person suffering from alcohol poisoning can pass out and choke on their vomit (which should be reason alone to abstain from drinking large amounts of alcohol!). Make sure to lay them on their side or keep them sitting up if possible.
The best way to combat alcohol poisoning is avoiding getting there in the first place. As a teen reading this, knowing the risks and signs can save your life or someone else’s. You alone can be the reason someone wakes up safe. Don’t be afraid of
, “getting in trouble ,” or “overreacting.” Again, it is better to be cautious and safe rather than lose someone. As a parent or adult reading this, make sure to communicate with your kids. Explain to them the dangers of underage drinking, binge drinking and how consuming too much alcohol can result in death or severe injury. Know the risks and keep yourself and others safe!
Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2018, January 19). Alcohol poisoning. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alcohol-poisoning/symptoms-causes/syc-20354386
American Addiction Centers. (2021, August 26). Can binge drinking kill you? Project Know. Retrieved January 4, 2022, from https://www.projectknow.com/blog/can-binge-drinking-kill-you/