Alcohol poisoning is a serious – and sometimes deadly – consequence of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Generally, alcohol is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and the amount of alcohol in your blood peaks within 30 to 45 minutes after your last drink. Drinking too much too quickly can affect your breathing, heart rate, body temperature, and gag reflex and can potentially lead to coma or death.
Many factors influence how you react to alcohol including your genetics, body weight, sex, age, type of beverage you consume, amount of food in your stomach, medicine in your system, and your overall health.
A standard-sized alcoholic beverage is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 shot of hard liquor in a mixed drink. Make sure you are aware of this when considering how much you drink. Alcohol poisoning deaths are most common among middle-aged adults, most people who die of alcohol poisoning are men, and 68 percent of deaths are among non-Hispanic whites.
Life-threatening signs of alcohol poisoning include:
- Inability to wake up
- Slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute)
- Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
- Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness
In the event of alcohol poisoning:
- Make sure to check on that person often to ensure they are still conscious and responsive
- Make certain they lay on their side, not their back
- Don’t give them food, drink, or medication of any kind
Be sure to call 911 or visit your nearest CHI St. Luke’s Health emergency department if you or someone you know displays the symptoms of alcohol poisoning.