Often, news reports and public service announcements don't adequately highlight the facts about alcohol poisoning, particularly to the younger generation who are often naive about the dangerous effects alcohol can have if consumed in excess. Even though alcohol is a legal substance, overindulging can be as hazardous to a person's health as any illegal drug. Binge drinking can have hazardous consequences that may include alcohol poisoning.
Facts You Should Know About Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol Poisoning Is a Medical Emergency
The CDC classifies alcohol poisoning as a medical emergency that occurs when high levels of alcohol in the blood "suppress the central nervous system (CNS)." This can make it difficult to breathe, swallow, vomit, and maintain other CNS controlled bodily functions. When blood levels of alcohol are high enough to suppress the CNS, it is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Lack of proper care can lead to death.
Sleeping It Off Is a Myth
According to College Drinking Prevention, blood alcohol content (BAC) can continue to rise after the cessation of drinking. Alcohol in the bloodstream can grow even more concentrated after one passes out. This occurs because alcohol in the stomach still absorbs into the bloodstream until the stomach is emptied of alcohol. Therefore, it may be dangerous to assume that someone who has passed out from drinking will just sleep it off.
Your Liver Can't Keep Up with Heavy Drinking
Alcohol poisoning occurs because your liver has a limited capacity to process alcohol, according to the Mayo Clinic. Alcohol is a toxin, and your liver must filter it from your blood when you consume alcoholic beverages. The liver processes about one drink per hour. When you exceed this amount, your BAC rises.
Ethanol Isn't the Only Type of Alcohol to Cause Poisoning
Ethanol alcohol, found in beer, wine, and liquor, is the most commonly ingested alcohol that leads to poisoning. However, isopropyl alcohol and methanol in household products can also cause poisoning if accidentally or intentionally ingested, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Most at Risk for Alcohol Poisoning
According to the CDC, approximately 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning occur in the United States annually. The Mayo Clinic reports that the following demographic groups are at higher risk of alcohol poisoning
People Aged 35 to 54
The majority of deaths from alcohol poisoning occur in people ages 35 to 54. This is because alcohol metabolism slows as the body ages.
Males are more likely than females to have alcohol poisoning. According to a National Vital Statistics report, in 2006 males died from alcohol-related causes, such as alcohol poisoning, at a rate that was 3.2 times higher than females.
Those with Other Risk Factors
- Smaller size: Smaller people are more susceptible to alcohol poisoning than their larger peers.
- Health problems: Certain health problems, such as diabetes or heart disease may increase susceptibility.
- Food consumption: Having an empty stomach speeds the rate that alcohol absorbs into your bloodstream.
- Drugs and medications: Certain drugs and medications can increase the risk of alcohol poisoning.
Know the Signs
The best way to prevent alcohol poisoning is to avoid binge drinking. It is important to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning in others, as well. Because alcohol poisoning can be lethal, seek immediate emergency medical treatment if you suspect someone may have alcohol poisoning.