Judging by Irish google searches, alcohol poisoning is on our minds a lot as it’s one of the top Irish alcohol search terms. Not surprising though when you know alcohol was implicated in 1 in 3 (137) of all poisoning deaths in 2013, more than any other single drug. Alcohol poisoning alone claimed one life each week.
So what is alcohol poisoning?
If you drink a lot of alcohol over a short space of time, such as on a night out, your body does not have time to process all the alcohol and the amount in your bloodstream, known as your blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, can become too high.
When this happens, it can have a serious effect on the mental and physical functions of your body. Alcohol affects the nerves that control automatic actions like breathing, your heartbeat and your gag reflex (which stops you from choking).
Too much alcohol can slow or even shut down these functions, causing you to stop breathing and become unconsciousness.
What to look out for
The signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
- seizures (fits)
- slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
- pale, bluish skin
- cold and clammy skin
In severe cases, alcohol poisoning can cause unconsciousness.
Dial 999 if you suspect alcohol poisoning
If in doubt and you suspect alcohol poisoning, you should dial 999 and ask for an ambulance.
Hospital staff will need to monitor you until all the alcohol has left your body. In severe cases they may also need to pump your stomach, help you to breathe and give you fluids and vitamins via a drip.
Most people recover, especially if they are cared for properly and taken to hospital. However, in some cases, poisoning can lead to accidental death. For example, you can choke on your own vomit.
If in doubt, always go to the nearest accident and emergency department.
Binge drinking can cause alcohol poisoning
You don’t have to be an alcoholic or even go over the recommended weekly low risk drinking limits to suffer poisoning.
Binge drinking which for women is drinking more than 6 standard drinks in one drinking session can cause alcohol poisoning.
If you would like to find out more about reducing alcohol harm check out our short free mini course.