According to the CDC, there are 2,200 alcohol poisoning deaths in the US each year. That’s an average of nearly 7 per day!
- Most people who die are 35-64 years old.
- Most people who die are men.
- Most alcohol poisoning deaths are among non- Hispanic whites. Although a smaller share of the US population, American Indians/Alaska Natives have the most alcohol poisoning deaths per million people of any of the races.
- Alaska has the most alcohol poisoning deaths per million people, while Alabama has the least.
- Alcohol dependence (alcoholism) was identified as a factor in 30% of alcohol poisoning deaths.
8 Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol poisoning is a serious medical emergency requiring immediate stabilization of the individual to prevent permanent systemic damage, coma and even death. According to the CDC’s 2015 Vital Signs report, nearly 2200 people die from it each year in the U.S., When reduced, this startling statistic comes out to an average of six to seven deaths per day. Hundreds of people die each year from acute alcohol intoxication also known as alcohol overdose. Thousands more are admitted to emergency rooms too. Alcohol poisoning is increasing in high schools and on college campuses.
The Key Signs of an Alcohol Overdose include:
- Confusion, disorientation, unresponsiveness and/or stupor
- Sudden lapsing in and out of consciousness
- Vomiting while semi-conscious or unconscious
- Seizures or severe body tremors
- Difficulty breathing
- Cold, clammy, pale or blue skin/hypothermia
- Unconsciousness or semi-consciousness
- Slow breathing (eight or less per minute) or long lapses between breaths of more than eight seconds.
In the event of alcohol overdose, these signs and symptoms will most likely be accompanied by a strong odor of alcohol. While these are obvious signs of alcohol poisoning, the list is certainly not all inclusive.
If someone is showing signs of an alcohol overdose you should:
If you encounter a person who exhibits one or more of the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning, do what you would do in any medical emergency: Call 911 immediately.
While waiting for 911 emergency transport, gently turn the intoxicated person on his/her side and maintain that position by placing a pillow in the small of the person’s back. This is important to prevent aspiration (choking) should the person vomit. Stay with the person until professional medical help arrives on the scene.
Getting the person to the emergency room as soon as possible is vital to preventing permanent damage or death from happening. When someone is showing signs of alcohol poisoning, never think coffee, a cold shower or sleep will help. They have been seriously poisoned and need professional assistance.
More About The Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol (a depressant drug), once ingested, works to slow down some of the body’s functions including heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing. When the vital centers have been depressed enough by alcohol, unconsciousness occurs. Further, the amount of alcohol that it takes to produce unconsciousness is dangerously close to a fatal dose. People who survive alcohol poisoning sometimes suffer irreversible brain damage.
Many students are surprised to learn that death can occur from acute intoxication. Most think the worst that can happen is they’ll pass out and have a hang-over the next day.
Coma or death can occur within minutes of someone exhibiting signs of alcohol poisoning unless these supportive treatments are provided immediately.
Never assume that someone who has been binge drinking and has passed out will safely “sleep it off”.
Victims of alcohol poisoning may also suffer acute respiratory distress syndrome, a life-threatening condition caused by breathing fluids (such as vomit) into the lungs. Fluid accumulation in the lungs contributes to the lungs’ inability to expand and take in sufficient oxygen, forcing blood oxygen levels to plummet rapidly.
Binge Drinking Is The Leading Cause Of Alcohol Poisoning Death
Binge drinking (4 or more drinks for women or 5 or more drinks for men in a short period of time) typically leads to a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that exceeds 0.08 g/dL, the legal limit for driving in all states. US adults who binge drink consume an average of about 8 drinks per binge, which can result in even higher levels of alcohol in the body. The more you drink the greater your risk of death.
Binge drinking, or drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time, is the cause of most alcohol poisoning cases. Although public health organizations tend to focus on educating college students about the dangers of binge/weekend drinking, there are actually more men between the ages of 45 and 54 who die more from alcohol poisoning than young adults. In fact, 76 percent of alcohol poisoning deaths are men in this age bracket.
The CDC constitutes binge drinking as “men consuming more than five drinks in less than two hours and women consuming four drinks in less than two hours”. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism quantifies binge drinking as drinking that produces a blood alcohol concentration reading of 0.08 grams percent or above in two hours or less.
6 Reasons Why Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Kill
Victims of alcohol overdose may also suffer acute respiratory distress syndrome, a life-threatening condition caused by breathing fluids (such as vomit) into the lungs. Fluid accumulation in the lungs contributes to the lungs’ inability to expand and take in sufficient oxygen, forcing blood oxygen levels to plummet rapidly.
Here are 6 reasons why alcohol overdose can kill:
- While food takes several hours to digest, alcohol enters the bloodstream with minutes of hitting the stomach. In addition to body tissues readily absorbing and holding alcohol, it also takes much longer for the body to eliminate alcohol than it takes to eliminate food wastes.
- Once alcohol has infiltrated the stomach and intestines, it continues to circulate throughout the body even though the person may have stopped drinking. Since the metabolizing of alcohol by the liver takes at least one hour, binge drinking severely strains liver functioning and forces alcohol to remain in the tissues and bloodstream for a dangerously long time.
- Alcohol is a powerful depressant capable of suppressing nerves responsible for maintaining basic life functions such as breathing, heart contractions, swallowing, etc.
- Alcohol overdose inhibits normal nerve functioning to the point that nerves stop working altogether. The result is coma and death.
- Since alcohol irritates the stomach lining, binge drinkers tend to vomit excessively and sometimes uncontrollably, raising the risk of suffering severe hydration and shock or choking to death after they have passed out.
- Even though a binge drinker may have passed out and stopped drinking, their blood alcohol concentration continues to rise. Unfortunately, many alcohol poisoning deaths are the result of friends thinking that the binge drinker is out of danger now that they are unconscious and unable to drink.
The Mayo Clinic defines one drink as:
- 12 ounces beer (5 percent alcohol)
- 8 to 9 ounces of malt liquor (7 percent alcohol)
- 5 ounces of wine (12 percent alcohol)
- 1.5 ounces of 80-proof hard liquor (40 percent alcohol)
Binge Drinking and Energy Drinks – A Deadly Trend
Mixing alcohol with energy drinks not only results in higher levels of alcohol consumption but also obscures the symptoms of alcohol intoxication and poisoning. Energy drinks contain caffeine, taurine and guarana, chemicals that stimulate the central nervous system, produce euphoria and counteract the depressant effects of alcohol. Consequences of combining binge drinking with energy drinks primarily involve the inability of a person who is binge drinking to feel intoxicated. As a result, they may consume four or more drinks in one or two hours since they don’t feel “drunk” and quickly develop alcohol poisoning.
Countless studies have shown that binge drinking use by youth and young adults increases the risk of both fatal and nonfatal injuries. Research has also shown that youth who use alcohol before age 15 are five times more likely to become alcohol dependent than adults who begin drinking at age 21. Other consequences of youth alcohol use include increased risky sexual behaviors, poor school performance, increased risk of being a victim of violence or sexual assault and increased risk of suicide and homicide.
Alcohol Use Disorder
According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, two instances of binge drinking in the same year may indicate an Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), a condition recently added to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM–5). The NIAAA also provides an assessment survey for those who think they may have a binge drinking/alcohol abuse problem.
For more information about alcohol overdose and binge drinking
visit the CDC and the National Institutes of Health.
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