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Key Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

Written by Shannon Weir, RN | Updated on Jan 28, 2023

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Patrick J. Gallus, DO

What is Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning occurs when a person has consumed a large amount of alcohol over a short period of time. The effects overwhelm the body, leading to a number of serious symptoms that can be fatal or cause serious brain damage. If you suspect that you, or a loved one, is experiencing symptoms of alcohol poisoning that you seek emergency medical care.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, alcohol poisoning, or an alcohol overdose, is defined as there being so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life support functions — like breathing, heart rate, and temperature control — begin to shut down.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

Patrick Gallus, D.O., Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Gallus Medical Detox Centers, recently told WebMD about the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning:

“In general, early warning signs of alcohol toxicity consist of confusion, slurred speech, poor coordination and pale skin. This can quickly develop into more concerning signs to include irregular breathing, hypothermia, unresponsiveness and coma.”

7 signs of alcohol poisoning listed out

What causes individuals to go from drinking that produces impairment to drinking that causes alcohol poisoning varies depending upon age, sensitivity to alcohol, gender, speed of drinking, medications, and food eaten.

Dr. Gallus explains that alcohol poisoning is common among problem drinking, noting that most alcohol poisoning typically occurs during binge drinking episodes by typically inexperienced drinkers.

How Common is Problem Drinking?

Persistent and harmful use of alcohol is more common than you might think. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reports that:

  • Approximately 15 million Americans have alcohol use disorder
  • 60 million Americans were binge drinkers
  • 15 million Americans were heavy drinkers
  • 88,000 Americans die from alcohol-related deaths per year

Binge drinking is classified as 4 or more drinks on one occasion for women and 5 for men. Heavy drinking is defined as 8 drinks or more per week for women, and 15 or more for men.

Alcohol use disorder is defined as a chronic relapsing brain disorder that is characterized by an impaired ability to stop or control alcohol use despite the negative consequences.

Some indicators of risky or excessive drinking include:

  • Drinking more or longer than you intend
  • Spend a lot of time drinking or thinking about alcohol
  • You try to cut down or stop drinking unsuccessfully
  • Loved ones and friends share concerns about your drinking
  • Increased tolerance, requiring more to have the result it once did
  • Continuing to drink even though it makes you feel unwell
  • Have had legal problems due to drinking, such as a DUI
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking

Getting Help

If you notice that your loved one is beginning to experience signs of alcohol toxicity, like slurring their words, or becoming confused, it’s best to try and keep them away from alcohol. “The first thing to do is to make sure no further alcohol is consumed. The person should never be left alone. Protect their airway at all costs either by having them sit up, or if unable to do so by laying them on their side to protect them from aspiration,” Dr. Gallus says.

If you believe that your loved on is struggling with alcohol on a regular basis it might be time to intervene and seek professional help. Alcohol use disorder is challenging to overcome alone and it can present a number of health and safety risks which often necessitate detox interventions.

At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we bring compassion to the commotion. Peace to the pain. Empowerment to the powerless. If you or someone you know needs support with addiction problems, bring us your battle. Call us today and take the best, first step towards recovery.

Shannon Weir, RN

Shannon Weir, RN is the Chief Nursing Officer at Gallus Medical Detox Centers. She has been a Registered Nurse for 30 years, Shannon’s experience ranges from critical care to flight nursing, medical detox, sexual assault exams, and SWAT nursing. Shannon has been with Gallus Medical Detox Centers since 2010 and is a vital part of our organization.

Last medically reviewed on August 22, 2020

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If you or a loved one is struggling with substance use, call Gallus at
(888) 306-3122.