Alcohol poisoning is a serious consequence of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a very short period of time, also known as binge drinking. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking alcohol leading to the person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. This typically happens when men consume five or more drinks and women consume four or more drinks over a two-hour period. The degree of intoxication varies between and within various cultures that engage in this practice. However, overdose becomes possible when blood alcohol levels (BALs) reach .28, with 50% of people dying at BALs of .40. In terms of the number of drinks, 95% of people will be at risk for an overdose after consuming 21 standard drinks in 6 or fewer hours.
Who is most at risk?
- People with high tolerance to alcohol are the most at risk. The more alcohol a person consumes, the closer s/he is in reaching the amount that can cause death.
Effects of Alcohol Overdose:
- People who drink quickly. Drinking quickly can increase blood alcohol levels so rapidly that the person cannot vomit.
When a person’s body absorbs too much alcohol
, it can have a direct impact on the central nervous system, breathing, heart rate, and gag reflex. This can lead to choking, coma, and even death. One reason this can happen is that the medulla, which controls heartbeats, breathing, and other functions, can be affected by heavy drinking and causes these functions to stop working, thereby, endangering your life. Similarly, an alcohol drinker loses consciousness when the reticular activating system is depressed.
Another impact of drinking too much alcohol is a severe drop in body temperature which may result in cardiac arrest. Excessive alcohol can also decrease blood sugar enough to cause a seizure. Some people who have passed out can choke on vomit, accidentally inhaling it into their lungs. This can lead to asphyxiation, or the inability to breathe that leads to sudden death.
Other signs of alcohol poisoning include:
- Slow or irregular breathing
- Hypothermia or abnormally low body temperature
Excessive drinking can be truly hazardous when left out of control. If you suspect someone in your family is abusing alcohol, you may want to try using at-home alcohol test kits
to detect alcohol levels quickly and conveniently. When used correctly, an alcohol test kit
can be helpful in discouraging family members from consuming an excessive amount of alcohol.