When Is It Alcohol Poisoning?

Moderate amounts of alcohol, such as wine, has been shown to have health benefits, but exceeding the recommended amount can cause damage and, in some cases, turn a “good time” into a potentially deadly situation.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that women have no more than one drink per day and men no more than two, but age, weight, overall health and medications can affect how much alcohol you should drink. The body’s initial reaction to alcohol may include a sense of euphoria, but consuming large amounts can lead to slurred speech and vomiting–the early stages of alcohol poisoning.

Michael Mattin, MD, medical director of the ProMedica Flower Hospital Emergency Center, explains that a person may be in trouble when they reach a point where they can no longer protect or care for themselves due to alcohol consumption.

According to The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, with alcohol poisoning causes organs and body functions to stop functioning properly. Difficulty breathing, vomiting, misjudgment, confusion, seizures, low body temperature and slow heart rate are all symptoms. Someone with alcohol poisoning cannot “sleep it off”–the blood alcohol content will continue to rise and could lead to choking, suffocation or brain damage.

Alcohol poisoning can happen at any age; however Dr. Mattin has noticed a trend in healthy young adults, perhaps due to a lack of experience and tolerance level.

“It is very scary seeing someone young and healthy having to be put on life support because of their level of intoxication,” says Dr. Mattin.

Noticing the signs and taking action can be the difference between a life or death situation. If someone you know may be experiencing alcohol poisoning, it’s important that they get emergency care immediately. There, the person will be stabilized on a ventilator with fluids until the detox is complete. More severe cases may require sedative medicine or pumping of the stomach to flush out the alcohol.

Drinking alcohol can be especially dangerous for those who are underage. Learn more about why even a taste can be dangerous for teenagers.