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Signs of Alcohol Poisoning: What to Do in an Alcohol Emergency

Many people enjoy alcohol on special occasions and at friendly gatherings. However, if you or someone else is in physical distress from drinking too much, the happy times may seem far away. Alcohol overdose is a dangerous condition. Yet, how can you tell if it is happening to you or a friend? Here are the main signs of alcohol poisoning and how to seek immediate alcohol treatment.

Are you concerned about yourself or a friend and alcohol poisoning? Contact us today at The Woods at Parkside for compassionate help. 

Recognizing Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

Woman at bar with signs of alcohol poisoning

When you or someone you care about suffers from an alcohol overdose, the consequences could be severe. Yet, if you recognize the symptoms, you can get help quickly. The following sections describe what to look for to identify the possibility of alcohol poisoning.

How Do You Know If You Have Alcohol Poisoning?

Eight Common Signs of Alcohol Poisoning Infographic

If you are overdosing on alcohol, you will notice the following symptoms.

  • You feel confused, and like you are in a stupor.
  • It becomes hard to stay conscious or awake.
  • You begin vomiting.
  • Your breathing slows and becomes irregular.
  • You feel your heart slowing down.
  • Your skin feels clammy.
  • Your body is not responding as usual. For example, you may not have a gag reflex anymore.
  • Your body temperature gets so low that your skin turns bluish, and you look very pale.

What Does Alcohol Poisoning Feel Like?

Alcohol poisoning does not happen all at once. At first, you might notice mild impairments, like slurred speech, poor coordination, feeling relaxed or sleepy, or having trouble balancing, remembering, or paying attention. If the condition gets no worse, you have little to worry about.


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However, remember: Your BAC can continue to rise for up to 40 minutes after you quit drinking. So, the signs of alcohol poisoning could show up for a while after you take your last drink.

Once your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) rises a little higher, you become more impaired. Some people become aggressive, and you might feel angry or ready to fight. You might not realize that driving is a bad idea at this point. However, your reflexes are too slowed down, and your ability to pay attention decreases.

If your BAC reaches 0.16 to 0.30%, all these effects become more severe. In addition to increasing difficulties in speech, coordination, and balance, you now have trouble making decisions or judging what you should do. You might feel very confused. You may have blackouts where you do not remember what happened. Vomiting could start, and you may even lose consciousness.

Then, if your BAC reaches 0.31 to 0.45%, your condition worsens. You lose consciousness, and your basic bodily functions begin to fail. Your breathing may become irregular, you may have trouble staying awake, your breathing becomes irregular, and your heart rate slows. Your body temperature drops, your skin becomes clammy, and you may have seizures. In short, alcohol poisoning feels miserable for as long as you are conscious. By then, it has already become life-threatening.

Effects of Alcohol Poisoning

Aside from the signs of alcohol poisoning, what does an alcohol overdose do to your body? Here’s what you need to know about what happens once alcohol poisoning begins.

How Long Does Alcohol Poisoning Last?

There is no one exact answer to how long the signs of alcohol poisoning will last. How long it takes to happen and how long it takes to leave your body varies, depending on several factors.

  • Age
  • Gender 
  • Weight
  • Metabolism
  • Alcohol sensitivity
  • Strength of alcohol
  • How fast you are drinking
  • Whether and what you have eaten
  • Any medications in your system

Because everyone is different, and everyone has a different set of circumstances, it makes sense to seek help sooner rather than later. Once you or your friend gets help, it could take a significant amount of time to get their body back to its usual functioning.

Here’s another thing to keep in mind about alcohol overdoses. While alcohol is one of the 5 most addictive drugs, you can fall prey to alcohol poisoning even the first day you drink if you do it to excess. 

Can You Die from Alcohol Poisoning?

It is true that you can die from alcohol poisoning. The bodily systems that keep you alive begin to fail, putting you at an ever-increasing risk of death or severe brain damage. Without your gag reflex, you could choke on your vomit. If you pass out, you could lose consciousness permanently. Alcohol overdose is a scary condition, but with help, you can avoid the worst outcomes. 

What to Do in an Alcohol Emergency

If you see signs of alcohol poisoning, you need to use your emergency number immediately. Call 911 and ask for help as soon as you see some of the signs. Do not wait to see every one of them. Remember, if you or your friend displays these symptoms, get help now.

  • Is awake but unresponsive
  • Can’t wake up or stay conscious
  • Vomits
  • Has a seizure
  • Breathing is slowed to 8 breaths per minute or slower
  • Breathes irregularly, with at least 10 seconds between breaths.
  • Heart rate slows down
  • Skin is clammy
  • No gag reflex
  • Skin looks bluish and feels very cold
  • Has a seizure due to low blood sugar or dehydration

While you are waiting for help to arrive, it is important to take the right actions and avoid doing things that will make matters worse. Here are some rules of thumb to make sure you stay on the right track to help yourself or someone else survive.

What to Do

Do not leave someone with alcohol poisoning alone. If you are the one with signs of alcohol poisoning, ask someone to stay with you if possible. Stay sitting upright, preferably on the floor or ground, to prevent falls. To prevent choking, help your friend when they vomit by having them lean forward. If the person is unconscious, turn them on one side to prevent choking due to an absent gag reflex. Cover them with a blanket to prevent further hypothermia. 

The emergency team will need information about you or your friend who is suffering from an alcohol overdose. If you are there with your friend, it might help to write down things like:

  • How much and what they drank
  • Any other drugs they took
  • Any medical conditions you know they have
  • Medications you are aware they take

What Not to Do

Do not try home remedies while someone is potentially suffering from an alcohol overdose. Do not give them anything to eat or drink unless it is small sips of water. Do not take them for a walk. Instead of telling them to take a shower or drink coffee, keep them as quiet and still as possible. Their life may be in danger, and they need to avoid doing anything that might cause them injury or increase their risk.

Treating Alcohol Poisoning

Once someone with alcohol poisoning reaches the hospital, the critical phase of treatment begins. During this phase, the doctors and nurses may do several things, including:

  • Give IV fluids to hydrate, keep blood sugar at good levels, and give them vitamins
  • Give oxygen therapy or intubate to improve breathing and decrease the chance of choking
  • Flush alcohol out of the stomach
  • Use hemodialysis to remove alcohol from their blood.

The goal in this phase is simply to keep you alive while they get your body back to a state of normal functioning.

The second phase of alcohol poisoning treatment happens after the crisis is past. At this point, the goal is to help you or your friend deal with a binge drinking disorder, other alcohol use disorder, or behavioral health problems that contributed to your alcohol overdose. These treatments could include medications, individual and group psychotherapy, and various other types of therapy.

Where to Go for Help with Alcohol Poisoning

For the first phase of alcohol poisoning treatment, you might be taken to any hospital near where you are. However, for the second phase, and in some cases the first as well, you may be able to choose where you seek help. 

If you decide to come to The Woods at Parkside, the emergency room, your family member, or you yourself can make the referral. In any case, you admit yourself if you feel a longer-term program would help you.

At The Woods at Parkside, we assist people in and near Central and Southern Ohio. We welcome you to our treatment programs if you are ready to make a fresh start after drug and alcohol problems such as an alcohol overdose. With a full range of services and groups ranging from life skills training to music and recreational therapy, you will get the help you need to overcome alcohol-related problems.

Within our beautiful grounds and residential facility, we provide the most effective treatments for those experiencing the emotional and physical aftereffects of alcohol poisoning. The Woods at Parkside is always here for you, making it easy for you to get the help you need.

Are you ready to put the threat of alcohol overdose behind you? Call us at The Woods at Parkside to learn about our treatment options.

Call to start your recovery today

 1-419-452-4818

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Please note: For medical emergencies, please call 911. For other urgent matters, please call our admissions line (419) 452-4818. Submissions after-hours, weekends, or holidays may experience a longer response time.

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