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Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol Poisoning

It is really easy to think alcohol is not affecting you. You ate before you started drinking so it seems to be taking a really long time to “feel” the alcohol. In order to help the process along, you decide to drink more and at a faster rate. Even after four shots of tequila in an hour and a half, you only just now are starting to feel a buzz. Three shots and 45 minutes later, you find yourself stumbling around, hanging on to your friends trying to figure out which way is up. You feel like you just went from zero to sixty in five minutes. Your friends are worried and decide to take you home.

The drive is a blur as you nod in and out of consciousness. Your friends get you inside your apartment and leave you in the bathroom because you keep telling them “I’m going to throw up.” This is not the first time this has happened to you. They leave you for the night thinking everything is fine. You lose consciousness on the cold tile, thinking you will sleep it off. But this time, you don’t wake up.

In Texas, per 1 million people, 5.4 died of alcohol poisoning in 2019. This number does not include alcohol deaths related to drunk driving or long-term alcohol conditions. SUN Behavioral Health Houston is here to educate our communities about the dangers of alcohol poisoning and how it can affect anyone who drinks alcohol.

What Happens to Your Body When You Have Alcohol Poisoning?

When alcohol is consumed, it is absorbed through the lining of the stomach and small intestine. This is where it enters the bloodstream and begins affecting organs such as the brain and kidneys. It eventually ends up in the liver where it is filtered out.

When alcohol is consumed at a fast rate, the body becomes overwhelmed and cannot process it to keep up with consumption. This causes a build-up of alcohol in the body that exasperates its effects. Factors such as eating before drinking help slow the absorption rate, but this can lead to drinking more because the effects are not felt as quickly as desired.

Alcohol and the Liver

When alcohol enters the liver, it begins to break down. The process usually takes about an hour per alcoholic beverage. There are factors that can affect this rate, such as gender. Women do not produce as much aldehyde dehydrogenase. This enzyme aids the liver in breaking down alcohol. This is why women are more susceptible to alcohol poisoning.

The dangers of alcohol poisoning are present for both men and women, however. When the liver is overwhelmed with alcohol and goes into overdrive to process it, the body responds. Excess sweating and vomiting are the body’s way of trying to get rid of the invading toxins, which is how alcohol is perceived.

Alcohol and the Heart

Alcohol causes the blood vessels to widen, making blood flow faster throughout the body. Over time, this can cause the heart muscle to become disfigured, stretched, and become enlarged, making it difficult to pump blood throughout the body. This condition is known as alcohol-induced cardiomyopathy.

The heart also plays a key role in alcohol poisoning. The brain cannot communicate with the body to regulate body temperature. When this happens, the body can go into a hypothermic state which makes the heart slow. If not corrected, the heart will stop completely.

Signs That Someone Is Experiencing Alcohol Poisoning

There are strong differences between someone drinking too much and someone experiencing alcohol poisoning. The most common signs of alcohol poisoning are:

  • Confusion
  • In and out of consciousness
  • Vomiting
  • Clammy skin

More serious symptoms include:

  • Trouble breathing
  • Slowed heart rate
  • Seizures
  • Dulled responses
  • Low body temperature

These symptoms should not be taken lightly. If alcohol poisoning is suspected, seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Who Is at Risk of Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning can affect anyone at any time. It does not matter if this is the first time drinking or the 400th time. Anyone who shows signs of alcoholism is at higher risk because they are more likely to drink heavily and on a daily basis. Also, those who have a predisposition to heavy drinking are at risk.

What To Do If You Suspect Someone Is Poisoned by Alcohol?

If you or a loved one have suspected alcohol poisoning, it is imperative to seek medical attention. Until they arrive, keep the person in a safe and quiet area. If they are vomiting, keep them on their side to prevent choking. Make sure they do not try to leave, as falls are common with alcohol poisoning and can cause further injury. Once help arrives, be honest with how much alcohol was consumed and if any other substances were paired with them. This will help the professionals treat accordingly and efficiently.

In Texas, the Good Samaritan Law is in place, meaning those who help with a life-threatening situation, such as alcohol poisoning, will not be punishable by law. This encourages bystanders to aid in these dangerous situations and call for help.

Treatment for Alcohol Poisoning and Alcohol Use Disorders

Living with alcohol use disorder can have negative effects on your life. Thankfully, these do not have to be permanent. At SUN Behavioral Health Houston, we have a full alcohol addiction treatment program. Our staff ensures the safety and well-being of all of our patients, from detox to outpatient. Even if you have experienced alcohol poisoning in the past, our staff addresses physical symptoms as well as mental.

Alcohol Detox: Detoxing helps the body readjust to not having alcohol in the system. When alcohol is consumed on a regular basis, the brain and other organs become used to it. When alcohol is taken away, it can take time for the body to recover, but this process is very important to healing and long-term recovery. Alcohol withdrawal is one of the main reasons patients keep using. Our detox program is medically supervised, and our staff is also trained in medication management to help alleviate withdrawal symptoms. Our team meets with each individual patient to decide what treatment plan is right for them after detox.

Inpatient: Patients stay at our facility 24/7 and participate in group and individual therapy. We create an individualized treatment course that can include dual diagnosis with mental health conditions as well as wellness techniques to create healthy habits. This provides a safe and distraction-free space for our patients to focus on themselves and recovery.

Outpatient: For our patients transitioning out of inpatient care or for those who do not need as much support as an inpatient stay. The patients come to our facility for therapy, medication management, and support throughout the day, 5 days a week. They do not stay onsite overnight; they are free to go home and then come back the next day.

If you or someone you loved has experienced alcohol poisoning or something similar, it’s time to think about reaching out. SUN Behavioral Health Houston has a fully trained staff of medical professionals as well as therapists and specialists to help you find recovery. Call us today at 713-796-2273 to learn more about what options are available for alcohol use disorder.


Frequently Asked Questions

What happens to the body when you are experiencing alcohol poisoning?

The body becomes overwhelmed with alcohol and the effects are exasperated because the liver cannot filter it out as fast as it is being consumed.

How much would you have to drink to get alcohol poisoning?

Binge drinking is the number one cause of alcohol poisoning. This means 5 or more drinks for males and 4 or more drinks for females in one sitting.

At what level does alcohol poisoning occur?

Typically, alcohol poisoning occurs at a BAC of .25% or more.

When should you seek medical help for alcohol poisoning?

When the first signs of alcohol poisoning occur, such as in and out of consciousness and uncontrollable vomiting, medical attention should be sought.

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