Equating alcohol poisoning with slow death is something of a misnomer. Alcohol poisoning is not an instantaneous event, but if you consume a large amount of alcohol in a very short period of time, alcohol poisoning can kill you in a matter of a few hours. Individuals who succumb to alcohol poisoning often fall into one of two categories: either they are young and have limited experience or understanding of how their bodies react to alcohol, or they are regular alcohol consumers who have developed a tolerance that allows them to consume a dangerously large quantity of alcohol. These individuals may not be alcoholics or even habitual alcohol drinkers. The simple fact is that alcohol is a depressant that suppresses your body’s natural protection and defense mechanisms. If those mechanisms are suppressed beyond their limits, your body will shut down, regardless of whether you have developed a tolerance to or you have become addicted to alcohol.
What is Alcohol Poisoning?
When you consume several alcoholic drinks in a short amount of time, your blood alcohol level will increase and your heart and respiratory rates will decrease. Your body’s natural gag reflex would normally keep you from consuming additional amounts of alcohol, but abnormally high blood alcohol levels also suppress that reflex. A person who is suffering from alcohol poisoning will be disoriented and stuporous. He may start vomiting or displaying signs of irregular or extremely suppressed breathing. His body temperature may start to drop and his skin will take on a pale or bluish tinge, as less oxygen is delivered to his organs when his respiratory rate decreases. Coffee, cold showers or exposure to cold air, or other attempts to wake or rouse a person who is exhibiting extreme signs of alcohol poisoning will be ineffective. When you are with a person who is displaying these symptoms, your best course of action is to contact emergency response personnel who can administer proper medical care.
Getting Help for Alcohol Poisoning
If you suspect that someone who is with you is experiencing alcohol poisoning and emergency care is not immediately available, you should make sure that he is able to continue breathing. Watch for vomiting, as that person’s suppressed gag reflexes may cause him or her to choke rather than to purge the dangerous alcohol from his system. Excess amounts of alcohol will cause severe electrolyte imbalances when that person becomes dehydrated. Low blood sugar that results from excess alcohol consumption can also lead to seizures and brain damage. In sum, doing nothing is the worst possible option when you suspect that someone near you has consumed a dangerous amount of alcohol.
Alcohol affects different people in different ways. If you are with a large group of people and everyone is drinking, you might be tempted to conclude that as long as you and a few other people in the group are not experiencing problems, then the group as a whole is okay. Alcohol absorption and metabolism are affected by a person’s height and weight, whether he has eaten before he started drinking, and his overall general health. A person who is drinking hard liquor will take in relatively more alcohol on a drink-for-drink basis than someone who is drinking beer or wine. Do not assume that, just because everyone survived a prior bout of heavy drinking, that a subsequent drinking binge will be similarly problem-free. A person can suffer severe injury or death from alcohol poisoning after any heavy drinking episode.
Moderate alcohol consumption of one or two drinks per day rarely causes problems. The risks of injury or death from alcohol poisoning will increase dramatically when you cross the line from moderate drinking and into a realm where you are consuming two or three drinks per hour.
If you or a friend have experienced problems with alcohol poisoning or you would like more information about alcohol poisoning risks, please contact the counselors and therapists at the Last Resort Recovery Center (near Austin, Texas) at 512-360-3600. Learning the risks and dangers associated with heavy alcohol consumption is an important step toward controlling your own alcohol consumption and keeping your friends safe from alcohol poisoning problems.