alcohol poisoning

alcohol poisoning

According to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol poisoning signs and symptoms include the following:

  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (less than eight breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths)
  • Blue-tinted skin or pale skin
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Unconsciousness (passing out) and can’t be awakened by others

Do’s and Don’ts of Helping Someone with Alcohol Poisoning

Call 911 immediately in case of an emergency. Time is precious when trying to help someone with alcohol poisoning — it could be the difference between life and death. Let the medical experts use their expertise to help you get assistance or help you assist a loved one.

Do’s of Helping Someone With Alcohol Poisoning

The Mayo Clinic recommends taking the following steps when helping a person that has alcohol poisoning:

  • DO call 911 or your local emergency number immediately to get assistance even if you do not see any of the classic alcohol poisoning signs and symptoms listed above. When in doubt, seek medical care.
    • Never assume that the person will sleep off alcohol poisoning.
    • It is best to allow the medical professionals to perform necessary interventions and evaluations to protect the well-being of the person with alcohol poisoning.
  • DO prepare yourself with detailed information if possible. Keep in mind, all of this fact-finding is happening after you’ve called 911/sought medical care for the person first.
    • If you are aware, provide the following detailed information to emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and medical staff:
      • The kind of alcohol the person drank
        • Was it beer, wine, liquor, or a combination of various alcohols?
          • If you don’t know, are there any empty bottles or cans nearby to give you clues?
      • The amount of alcohol that was consumed
        • Check nearby empty bottles or cans for the amount left in each.
      • When alcohol use began
        • If you were in contact with the person before alcohol poisoning, check your phone for the timestamps of phone calls and text messages to aid in creating a timeline of events.
      • If the person is able to respond, ask them if alcohol was the only drug consumed.
        • Were they taking any prescription medication, or did they take any other drug besides alcohol that they are aware of?
  • DO assist a person who is vomiting.
    • Try to keep the person in an upright (sitting up) position.
    • If the person must lie down, make sure to turn the person’s head to the side.
      • Laying a person on their side helps prevent choking.
    • Try to keep the person awake to prevent loss of consciousness.

Other tips for the caretaker of a person with alcohol poisoning:

  • DO stay calm.
    • Remember, the calmer you are, the more likely you will be able to help and recall important details leading to the person’s alcohol poisoning.
    • If the person in distress sees you panicking, this will signal to them to also be in a panicked state.
    • If you feel yourself becoming overwhelmed, take a few deep breaths and remember you are doing everything in your power to be a helper to the person struggling with alcohol poisoning.
  • DO call on others to help if you are not able to assist.
    • It is likely that the person you are assisting has family, friends, roommates, etc., that could step in to help if for some reason you can’t or are no longer able to assist.
      • You may be under the influence as well and not able to assist properly despite your good intentions. Call for help.
      • Do not let work or other obligations and responsibilities interfere with your loved one getting the proper care they need as soon as possible!

Don’ts of Helping Someone With Alcohol Poisoning

According to the Mayo Clinic, the following are recommendations of what not to do when helping a person with alcohol poisoning:

  • DON’T abandon an unconscious person.
    • Alcohol poisoning affects the way the gag reflex works. Therefore, a person with alcohol poisoning may choke on their own vomit and lose their ability to breathe.
  • DON’T make the person vomit.
    • While waiting for help, don’t attempt to make the person vomit because they could potentially choke.
  • DON’T be afraid of seeking help for the person.
    • It is always best to err on the side of caution in the case of a person that may have alcohol poisoning.
      • It may be helpful to think about what you would like someone else to do for you if you were in the same situation. Likely, you would want to be assessed and get treatment if it is deemed necessary for your health and well-being.
    • You may feel a great sense of worry about the possible consequences for you or your loved one for seeking medical care for alcohol poisoning, especially if you or the person you are helping is an underaged drinker.
      • It is important to remember that the consequences of not getting the right help in the right time frame can be far more serious and possibly deadly.
        • Your decision to intervene by getting the person to medical care could save the life of your loved one.
      • There are medical professionals that have gotten the necessary schooling and training to help in these circumstances. Allow them to perform their life-saving work for your loved one.
        • As lay people assisting our friends or family members, we really have no idea what could be going on inside their bodies or the long-term health consequences that may occur for the person if we don’t get help for them now. Make the safest choice for your loved one: Get help now!

How Common Is Alcohol Poisoning?

Based on a Vital Signs Study on Alcohol Poisoning Deaths from 2010-2012, there were an average of 93 yearly deaths from alcohol poisoning in the state of Arizona. The 93 yearly deaths include those of people ages 15 or older in which alcohol poisoning was deemed the principal cause of death.

According to a U.S. report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based on data from 2010-2012, there are an average of 2,221 alcohol poisoning deaths in the U.S. each year among people 15 or older. From 2010-2012, an average of six people, mostly adult men, died every day from alcohol poisoning in the U.S.

How to Prevent Alcohol Poisoning

Clearly, having alcohol poisoning is not a pleasant event for anyone involved. It can be a truly terrifying experience for ourselves or a loved one to go through. The best intervention is prevention. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are some tips on how to prevent alcohol poisoning from ever happening in the first place:

  • Don’t drink alcohol or choose to drink in moderation.
    • There is always the option to abstain from alcohol use altogether or to reduce alcohol use to prevent alcohol poisoning.
      • Before you drink, consider your family history of alcohol use, your goals for the future, and the possible legal consequences of drinking (underage drinking, drinking and driving, etc.).
      • What does moderate alcohol use look like?
        • For healthy adults, moderation includes drinking up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65.
        • For men under the age of 65, moderate drinking would be two drinks per day.
          • What qualifies as one drink?
            • According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, a “standard” drink includes the following examples:
              • 12 ounces of regular beer, which is typically about 5% alcohol
              • 5 ounces of wine, which is usually about 12% alcohol
              • 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits, which is approximately 40% alcohol
  • Drink slowly and space out your drinks.
    • It is always OK to ask for water or other non-alcoholic beverages in place of alcohol.
    • If you are planning to drink, create a “safe drinking plan” before drinking. It is best to have a plan in place while you are sober and in full control of your decision making. For example, it could look like having a maximum of two glasses of wine over a four-hour party timeframe.
      • Keep accountable to a “safe drinking plan” by tracking drinking with phone alarms/reminders, switching bracelets on wrist from one hand to another (for example, two glasses of wine=two bracelets), etc.
      • The “safe drinking plan” could include having a designated driver or paying for transportation.
        • Make sure you are setting enough money aside in advance to pay for transportation and tip.
      • Is there anyone you know that could keep you accountable to your “safe drinking plan”?
        • It may be helpful for a caring person to check in and follow up with you or a loved one if you start deviating from the “safe drinking plan.”
  • Consider a social support group.
    • Do you have friends or family members that insist on drinking and insist that you drink, too?
      • It is perfectly acceptable to set healthy boundaries for yourself by opting out of drinking with certain people. We often mimic the behaviors of those closest to us — choose your inner circle of support wisely. Your health and safety should always be your top priority.
  • Don’t drink on an empty stomach.
    • Eating before drinking and during drinking may slow alcohol absorption.
    • Eating alone will not prevent alcohol poisoning, as is the case in binge drinking, but it is a helpful tip to be aware of.
  • Communicate with your teens.
    • Open the lines of communication with your teenagers about the dangers of alcohol and binge drinking.
    • There is evidence to suggest that children who are forewarned about alcohol by their parents and have close parental relationships are less likely to start drinking.
    • Worried about how to start the conversation about the dangers of alcohol and binge drinking with your children?
      • Begin with an “I” statement to allow for the conversation to feel less punitive and more centered on your own feelings and concerns. This includes the framework of “I feel … when …” For example, “I feel concerned when I think about the dangers of drinking. It is likely you will come across a situation where you or a friend drinks way too much way too quickly. I would like to share some tips with you to follow if you are in a situation where you or your friend needs help.” Notice there were lots of “I” statements in that example.
  • Store products safely.
    • Store alcohol-containing products (cosmetics, mouthwashes, and medication) out of the reach of small children.
    • Use child-proof cabinet tools to prevent children from accessing household cleaners.
    • Keep toxic items in the garage or other storage area that is out of reach of children.
    • Consider storing alcoholic beverages in lock-and-key areas that are inaccessible to children and teens.
  • Get follow-up care.
    • If you or your loved one has a history of being treated for alcohol poisoning, consider seeking additional mental health and addiction treatment to prevent future binge drinking that may result in alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol Treatment at Pinnacle Peak Recovery

At Pinnacle Peak Recovery in Arizona, we offer alcoholism rehabilitation. We offer safe, medical detox as well as a partial hospitalization program (PHP) and an intensive outpatient program (IOP). Detox includes medical supervision and can last for about five to 10 days.

PHP lasts for about 45 days, and the person has the option to go home at night or live at a sober living home nearby. IOP lasts about 60 days and includes three evenings every week.

When you are assessed by one of our caring staff, they will determine the best treatment plan for you based on your unique needs and goals.

Pinnacle Peak Recovery Is Here to Help

Alcohol poisoning is very serious and is greatly concerning for the family and friends that intervene to help. If you or your loved one is in need of alcohol treatment, please contact Pinnacle Peak Recovery today at (866) 377-4761.



What happens to your body when you have alcohol poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning signs and symptoms include a few or all of the following: confusion (person is not able to answer basic questions about self, location, sequence of events, etc.), vomiting, seizures, slow breathing (less than eight breaths per minute), irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths), blue-tinted skin or pale skin, hypothermia (low body temperature), and unconsciousness (passing out) and can’t be awakened by others.

What is the survival rate of alcohol poisoning?

According to a U.S. report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), based on data from 2010-2012, there are an average of 2,221 alcohol poisoning deaths in the U.S. each year among people 15 or older. From 2010-2012, an average of six people, mostly adult men, died every day from alcohol poisoning in the U.S.

Pinnacle Peak Recovery