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How can I tell if a person is experiencing alcohol poisoning?

Excessive drinking is extremely dangerous. Some people may find it hard to judge someone's intoxication level. Many different factors affect the level of intoxication in a person, such as their weight, height, body chemistry, and amount of food already eaten. There are many myths about sobering up, some of which include: drinking black coffee, sleeping it off, and taking a bath or shower. All of these myths are not true and do not work. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse say the only thing that can reverse the effect of alcohol, is time.

Alcohol and Your Body

A person's highest level of intoxication can occur anywhere from 30-90 minutes after you stop drinking. This all depends on how much and how quickly you drink, also on how much food is in your stomach.

Alcohol depresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing and the gag reflex (which prevents choking). Commonly, a person who drank excessive alcohol will vomit, because alcohol is an irritant to the stomach.

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning:
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow or labored breathing (8 breaths a minute or more than 10 seconds between breaths)
  • Cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin (signs of insufficient oxygen).
What to do if someone is suspected of alcohol poisoning:
  • Do not wait for all symptoms to be present
  • A person who is passed out may die.
  • Call 911 immediately
What happens to a person with untreated alcohol poisoning:
  • Victim chokes on his/her vomit
  • Breathing slows, becomes irregular or stops
  • Heart beats irregularly or stops
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Hypoglycemia (too little blood sugar – leads to seizures)

Any person who has experienced any or all of these signs is experiencing acute alcohol intoxication (alcohol poisoning). This is a medical emergency and you MUST call 911.