Drinking a large amount of alcohol over a short time can lead to alcohol poisoning. Toxic amounts of alcohol in the bloodstream can be fatal, so safe drinking is important.
What Is Alcohol Poisoning?
The body can process one unit of alcohol per hour. If someone drinks lots of alcohol in a short time (binge drinking), the liver can’t filter the alcohol from your blood quick enough, leaving a dangerously high amount of alcohol in the body. Alcohol poisoning can make people very ill and even lead to death. Addiction to alcohol can be hard to detect with binge drinking culture. If you think somebody has an alcohol addiction, staging an intervention may be necessary.
People sometimes binge drink on a night out, but it can also happen at home with others or when people are alone. Binge drinking is classed as consuming between four and five alcoholic units per hour.
Symptoms And Signs Of Alcohol Poisoning
The signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning vary. Here are some common signs to look out for:
- Passing out or seizures
- Losing control of bowel and bladder
- Low blood sugar levels
- Being conscious but not responding
- Hypothermia – look out for pale or blue-hued skin. This is due to low body temperature
- Laboured, irregular or slow breathing
- Being sick
- Lack of coordination, confusion or slurred speaking
What Are The Dangers Of Alcohol Poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning can have severe and devastating consequences, including:
- Death due to choking on vomit
- Death due to stopping breathing
- Heart attacks and strokes
- Severe dehydration leading to permanent brain damage
- Severe hypothermia, leading to cardiac arrest
- Fits and seizures
Alcohol Poisoning — What To Do
You need to call 999 immediately if you think someone has alcohol poisoning. Here’s what you need to do whilst waiting for an ambulance:
- Try to give them water. It’s essential to keep hydrated
- If they are being sick, try to get them to sit up rather than lie down
- Make sure they are warm. Cover them with a blanket if possible to prevent hypothermia
- Check if they are breathing correctly and lie them on their side in the recovery position
- Attempt to sit them up and keep them conscious
- Try and remember how much the person drank, as this will help the paramedics
- Stay with them to monitor any changes
What NOT To Do
You can play a vital role in helping someone with alcohol poisoning. Knowing the right things to do can be tricky, especially if you have been drinking alcohol yourself. If you follow these steps, you are playing a pivotal role in helping to potentially save their life.
- Don’t leave them alone. You need to check for any changes and respond to their needs.
- Avoid giving them drinks such as coffee, and stick to small sips of water instead. Coffee will cause further dehydration, potentially leading to permanent brain damage.
- Alcohol levels in the bloodstream keep rising even when someone has stopped drinking. Don’t let them sleep.
- Make sure they don’t drink more alcohol.
- Try to get the person to sit up or lean forwards if they are vomiting. If they can’t sit up, encourage them to lie on their side to be sick to prevent choking.
- Don’t give them food, thinking it will absorb alcohol. Food could cause choking.
- Never encourage them to be sick as they could choke on their own vomit.
- Don’t put them in the shower, thinking it will sober them up. Cold water can lead to hypothermia, another deadly consequence of alcohol poisoning.
- Don’t get them to walk around hoping it will improve their symptoms. Due to lack of coordination, movement could cause accidents and physical injury.
Alcohol Poisoning — Treatment In Hospital
Alcohol poisoning needs to be treated in a hospital. There’s a high risk of death if someone is left untreated, so don’t attempt to look after them at home.
A tube will be fitted into their mouth and windpipe. This helps with breathing, clears blockages and opens the airway. They could be given extra oxygen to help with breathing or hooked up to a drip to replenish their vitamins, water and blood sugar levels. If they are having problems urinating, their bladder will be fitted with a temporary catheter, where urine is drained into a bag.
Doctors may ‘pump’ their stomach to remove alcohol from the body.
Know Your Alcohol Units
If you stick to recommended safe alcohol guidelines, then it’s unlikely that you’ll get alcohol poisoning. UK Chief Medical Officers advise men and women to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week. If you choose to drink the maximum 14 units, the advice is to spread out your drinks over at least three days.
Knowing the amount of alcohol considered a ‘unit’ can be confusing. There are so many different strengths of alcohol, not to mention bottle and glass sizes. As a guide, 14 units is equivalent to six medium glasses of wine or six pints of beer or lager.
Check out this NHS alcohol unit guide that explains more about different types of alcohol, drink sizes and units.
If you’re planning a night out involving drinking, there are things you can do to keep yourself safe and prevent binge drinking. A good idea is to set yourself an alcohol limit for the evening and stick to it.
Make sure you eat a good meal before drinking to ‘line your stomach.’ The food will help stop your body from absorbing too much alcohol. Alternate drinking alcohol with a glass of water to keep yourself hydrated.
Make sure you’re spending the evening with friends or people who have your best interests. They can guide you to stick to safe drinking limits and help if you drink too much.
Alcohol Addiction And Where To Get Help
If you find yourself regularly binge drinking, you may have a problem with alcohol. Your doctor can help by signposting and referring you to support services in your area. Another alternative is to seek help from a private alcohol rehab clinic. Rehab Clinics Group provide specialist, caring treatment for people struggling with alcohol addiction.
Call our friendly team on 0800 470 0382 to learn more about alcohol rehab near you.