The Danger and Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

in Addiction
Published May 7, 2021
signs of alcohol poisoning

Alcohol poisoning, often referred to as alcohol overdose, occurs when an individual continues to consume alcohol despite already being significantly impaired. In some severe cases, alcohol poisoning can cause significant life-saving bodily functions to struggle to operate as necessary. When this happens, it can be life-threatening. Many people overlook the dangers of alcohol poisoning and may think that an intoxicated friend will be fine if they simply “sleep it off.” In reality, the individual may need emergency medical attention.

Cause of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning occurs when so much alcohol has been consumed that it overpowers the bloodstream, negatively affecting breathing, heart rate, and body temperature. It often occurs when someone is consuming a large amount of alcohol in a short amount of time. Sometimes a person will be so intoxicated that they don’t realize that some of their body’s most essential functions are beginning to suffer. This can occur even quicker if an individual is consuming alcohol along with other drugs. Even prescription and over-the-counter medications used in conjunction with alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning. Age and body weight can also affect a person’s risk of alcohol poisoning.

Symptoms and Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

It is crucial to recognize the symptoms and signs of alcohol poisoning to receive help before it is too late. Some alcohol poisoning symptoms include:

  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Clammy skin
  • Slowed breathing
  • Bluish skin color
  • Low body temperature
  • Inability to wake up


If an individual experiences any of these symptoms, 911 should be called immediately. While waiting for help to arrive, there are a few critical steps to remember to ensure the safety of the intoxicated individual.

  • The intoxicated individual should not be left alone.
  • The intoxicated individual should be kept on the ground in an upright position. If they are unconscious, they should be laid on their side.
  • If the individual is vomiting, they should be propped forward in order to avoid choking.
  • Those present should prepare themselves to answer any questions paramedics may ask, such as what and how much the individual drank, if they have allergies, health conditions, or if they are on any known medications.


Risks of Alcohol Poisoning

There is a multitude of risks that come along with alcohol poisoning. An individual may lose their gag reflex and choke on their own vomit or struggle to get oxygen into their lungs. Their heartbeat may become irregular or even stop altogether. Their body temperature may become so low they experience hypothermia. They may also become severely dehydrated. Long-term side effects of alcohol poisoning include permanent brain damage and even death.

An individual who is this intoxicated will be significantly cognitively impaired and may engage in dangerous activities due to poor judgment. They may injure themselves or others by attempting to operate a vehicle, or they may engage in unprotected sex.

Avoiding Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning can be avoided through responsible drinking and drinking in moderation. It is crucial to have a balanced meal before consuming alcohol, space out drinks, and consume plenty of water to avoid dehydration. It is also essential to understand what an average drink is in order to prevent overconsumption. One standard drink is 12 fl oz of beer, five fl oz of wine, or 1.5 fl oz of liquor. If an individual is on any type of medication, they should check with their doctor to determine how the drug may interact with alcohol.

Seeking Treatment

There are several ways to identify if an individual may be struggling with an alcohol use disorder. If someone is unsure if they need to seek treatment, they can ask themselves the following questions:

  • Have they tried to stop drinking or cut back but found themselves unable to?
  • Have they continued to drink despite it causing problems within their relationships?
  • Have they continued to drink despite finding themselves unable to keep up with day-to-day responsibilities?
  • Have they continued to drink despite noticing that it is leading to physical or mental harm?
  • Do they hide their drinking from others?


If they determine that they have a problem, the first step is to consult their primary care physician. A primary care physician will be able to provide any referrals necessary. On some occasions, they may also provide medication and determine whether or not the patient needs to undergo a medical detox. A medical detox is the safest way to detox as it takes place under medical supervision, and withdrawal symptoms can be managed comfortably and safely. It also provides the patient with the greatest chance of successful recovery.

Alcohol poisoning occurs when someone consumes so much alcohol that it overpowers their bloodstream, causing essential bodily functions to struggle to operate as usual. Drinking a lot of alcohol in a short amount of time or drinking on an empty stomach can increase the risk of alcohol poisoning. A person may be so intoxicated that they continue to drink, not realizing that their body is shutting down. There are many risks associated with alcohol poisoning, including choking, hypothermia, seizures, and dehydration. An individual may struggle for breath or stop breathing altogether. Their heart may beat irregularly or stop beating entirely. If you know that you have an alcohol use disorder, there is help available. At Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we offer a variety of detox treatments and resources to help you on your path to recovery. At our facility, you’ll be able to recover while receiving the dignity you deserve. To learn more about the detox process at Gallus, call us today at (866) 296-5242.