Alcohol poisoning is an emergency, can be deadly and requires immediate medical treatment. If you are with someone who has been drinking and becomes sick, cannot control body functions, or slips into unconsciousness, call 911 immediately.
Drinking is common during social activities, including sporting events, dinners, and informal gatherings between friends. While people drink without issues, some who drink get into dangerous situations leading to mistakes or tragedies that turn their worlds upside down. Individuals who drink excessively are at risk for alcohol poisoning, which can be deadly.
Alcohol Shots Can Go from Fun to Fatal
Doing vodka shots at a party with friends may seem like a harmless drinking game, but good judgment often goes out the window when individuals drink too much. The dares, prodding, and taunting that typically accompany taking alcohol shots keep participants drinking. Teens and young adults with little or no drinking experience, who feel pressured to be part of the group, can consume dangerous amounts of alcohol, leading to comas, brain damage, or death.
People caught up in taking alcohol shots, or drinking excessively, may not consider that the type of alcohol in a shot can make it more potent. A typical 1.5-ounce shot of rum, gin, or whiskey, or other 80-proof alcohol, is about 40 percent alcohol. A 100-proof alcohol product would be 50 percent alcohol. The difference in the percentage of alcohol can have a marked effect on how fast a person becomes drunk.
What Alcohol Poisoning Is – and Factors That Contribute to It
Alcohol poisoning can happen when the part of the brain that controls bodily functions shuts down because of heavy alcohol use. Alcohol poisoning kills 2,200 people each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control. It can occur in any situation where a person drinks too much, but it is not unusual for alcohol poisoning to happen when people take alcohol shots.
People who take alcoholic shots and drink excessively may escape with a hangover or terrible headache the next day. However, no one is immune to alcohol poisoning. Several factors determine whether an individual is more susceptible to alcohol poisoning. Weight, tolerance, how fast a person drinks, how much alcohol an individual has already consumed, and whether the individual has eaten or taken medications or drugs before drinking can impact how excessive drinking affects a person.
Alcohol-Induced Blackouts and Pass Outs
Some people experience memory lapses known as “blackouts” when drinking heavily. Blackouts can range from spotty memory where individuals forget pieces of events to complete amnesia where an intoxicated person has no memory of what happened. Blackouts usually occur at high blood alcohol content (BAC) levels and are often the result of binge drinking that raises BAC to .08 or higher—for women, four drinks in two hours, and for men, five drinks within two hours.
During a blackout, an individual remains awake but cannot make new memories. An individual who passes out after binge drinking falls asleep or loses consciousness. In either situation, impaired judgment can lead to an individual being vulnerable or engaging in behaviors that can be dangerous or deadly to themselves or others.
The Danger Continues After the Drinking Stops
After alcohol enters the bloodstream, it goes to the liver for processing. According to experts, it takes about an hour for the liver to process one ounce of alcohol. Enzymes in the liver break down alcohol molecules. However, when people consume alcohol excessively and quickly, the liver usually cannot break down the substance, so it remains in the body longer.
The liver’s inability to process excessive alcohol quickly explains why after a person stops doing shots, the alcohol in their body can still cause problems for hours. Alcohol that is not metabolized by the liver continues to increase an individual’s blood alcohol content (BAC) level. Common signs of high blood alcohol content include:
- Breathing problems
- Impaired memory
- Inability to walk or stand
- Slurred speech
Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning
There are of course physical signs of alcohol poisoning. When alcohol overwhelms the body and brain, the area in the brain that controls functions that support life can no longer do its job. The affected individual loses control of normal body functions. They may choke on their vomit because they cannot sit up, and their gag reflex does not work. They may experience seizures, inability to stand or walk, slowed breathing, a lower heart rate, decreased body temperature, and unconsciousness.
Drunk Friends Don’t Usually Offer Help
Sadly, in situations where people take alcoholic shots and drink to excess, individuals may pass out or be so intoxicated that they cannot recognize when a friend may be in danger. In some cases, rather than getting needed help, a person experiencing symptoms of alcohol poisoning may endure mockery, be laughed at for being unable to hold their liquor, or be accused of acting like a “baby.” A person who passes out or experiences a seizure may be ridiculed by people who don’t realize the individual is in danger.
When a group engages in binge drinking, and no one can think responsibly, they may be unaware that a friend is dying from drinking too much. In some cases, friends who are too drunk to realize what is happening may abandon a person experiencing alcohol poisoning. If they think the person has died, they may even refrain from seeking help, out of fear of being held responsible for the death.
Helping a Person at Risk for Alcohol Poisoning
Immediate medical help is the only way of curing alcohol poisoning. However, when an individual is binge drinking and headed for danger, try to convince them to slow down and drink a glass of water before consuming more alcohol. Talking with them and offering them something to eat are other ways to help them slow their drinking.
If an individual appears to be experiencing alcohol poisoning symptoms and has lost control of motor function, call 911 immediately and do not leave the person alone. Putting the person in a recovery position can help their breathing and prevent choking on vomit. Use the following steps to place a person in the recovery position:
- Kneel by the person. Move the arm closest to you straight out from the body. Place the far arm with the back of the hand against the cheek closest to you.
- Take hold of the person’s knee farthest from you and bend it.
- Use one hand to protect the head and gently roll the person toward you, pulling the far knee over and to the floor or ground.
- Tilt the head upward slightly to open the airway. Place the individual’s hand under the cheek. Stay by the person until help arrives.
To find out more about how to get help for problem drinking and reduce the chances of alcohol poisoning, call us today at (866) 653-6220. Our compassionate team of counselors is here 24/7 to offer support, options, and guidance.