Authored by Revere Health

How to Recognize Alcohol Poisoning

July 26, 2018 | Family Medicine

Immediate medical attention is crucial for someone with alcohol poisoning. When a person drinks too much alcohol in a short period of time, the gag reflex, breathing, body temperature and heart rate can be affected. In worst case scenarios, it can lead to a coma or even death.

It’s also important to remember that common household products containing alcohol can also cause alcohol poisoning in children and adults, so you should know the symptoms to watch out for.

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning

Someone that drinks excessive amounts of alcohol quickly and exhibits any of the following symptoms should receive immediate medical care:

  • Unconsciousness
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Pale or blue-tinged skin
  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion
  • Slow or irregular breathing (less than eight breaths per minute or a gap larger than ten seconds between each breath)

While these are clear symptoms of alcohol poisoning, you don’t need to see all of them before seeking medical help. Even one or two symptoms is enough to show the seriousness of the situation and you should call emergency services immediately. If someone is unconscious and won’t wake up due to alcohol poisoning, the risk of death is very real and imminent.

Know Your Limits and Risk Factors

To drink responsibly, you should know the risk factors that can increase your chances of getting alcohol poisoning and how to limit yourself when it comes to alcohol. Your overall health, size, weight, food consumption and tolerance level all play into your risk of alcohol poisoning. The amount and rate of your alcohol consumption, the alcohol percentage in your drinks, and the combination of drugs and alcohol can also increase your risks.

Alcohol is different than food in that it absorbs quickly into the body rather than taking hours to digest. Unfortunately, it also takes longer to get the alcohol out of your body. The liver processes most of the alcohol you consume and the more you drink in a short time the more likely you are to have alcohol poisoning.

Binge drinking is often the cause of alcohol poisoning. This typically occurs when a female has four drinks or more in two hours, or when a male has five or more drinks within two hours. One drink is considered:

  • 1.5 ounces of 80 proof hard liquor
  • 5 ounces of wine
  • 8 or 9 ounces of malt liquor
  • 12 ounces of regular beer

Severe alcohol poisoning can also lead to complications such as brain damage, seizures, severe dehydration, choking, interruption of breathing, an irregular heartbeat and even death.

Treatment for Alcohol Poisoning

While the best way to treat alcohol poisoning is to simply prevent it, call for emergency help immediately if the situation arises. A medical professional will monitor the person carefully, provide oxygen therapy, intubate to help allow breathing and prevent choking, and provide IV fluids for rehydration. It may also be necessary to pump the stomach to remove any remaining alcohol. Glucose and vitamins may be given to prevent seizures and raise blood sugar.

Simply put, a medical professional should always treat someone with alcohol poisoning. If someone you know is in this situation, contact an emergency medical professional.

Revere Health Orem Family Medicine is devoted to comprehensive healthcare for patients of all ages, and committed to provide thorough and timely health care for the entire family throughout all stages of life.



“Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning.” American Addiction Centers.

“Alcohol Poisoning.” Mayo Clinic.


The Live Better Team


The Live Better Team

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This information is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. You should always consult your doctor before making decisions about your health.