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What To Do in The Event of an Alcohol Overdose

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About 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning are reported each year in the United States, and approximately once per week, someone dies from this preventable medical condition.

Alcohol Overdose Symptoms. Identifying the symptoms and the signs of alcohol poisoning and responding appropriately and intelligently to such a circumstance, however, can help avoid a fatal alcohol overdose.

So when another person asks you what to do in the event of alcohol overdose, the best answer is this: "seek immediate medical assistance by calling 911."

What is the Definition of Alcohol Overdose?

Researchers use the term "lethal dose" (LD) to describe the dose (or "concentration" for alcohol cases) that causes death in half of the population (LD:50).

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Most alcoholism experts agree that blood alcohol concentrations in the 0.40% to 0.50% range satisfies the LD:50 requirement.

The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the percentage of alcohol in the blood after the alcohol has been absorbed by the stomach and entered the blood supply.

Based on the above we can arrive at a working definition of alcohol overdose.

An alcohol overdose is a dangerous and sometimes deadly result of drinking extreme amounts of alcohol that result in blood alcohol concentrations from 0.40% to .50%.

Note: "binge drinking" (consuming five or more alcoholic drinks at one sitting) can also result in an alcohol overdose.

The effects of the alcohol on your body depend on the amount of alcohol in your blood (blood alcohol level).

The factors that affect your blood alcohol level include the following:

  • How much food is in your stomach at the time you drink

  • How strong the alcoholic drink is

  • How much you weigh

  • How quickly you consume the alcoholic drink

  • How quickly your body metabolizes the alcohol

What Does This Mean in Typical Drinking Situations?

Alcoholism experts define a "standard drink" as 12 ounces of beer, 1.5 ounces of 72-proof distilled spirits, or 5 ounces of wine, all of which contain approximately .54 ounces of alcohol.

Moreover, the average person metabolizes alcohol at the rate of approximately one drink per hour.

Now that we know what a "standard drink" and how long it takes a person to metabolize an alcoholic drink, we can put the discussion of "lethal dose" into a more understandable framework.

  • A 100-pound man or woman would have to consume 9 or 10 standard drinks in less than an hour to reach the LD:50

  • A 200-pound man or woman would have to consume approximately 5 or 6 standard drinks per hour for 4 hours to reach the LD:50.

Even though drinking patterns such as these are not typical in most drinking situations, participating in club "initiations" (such as sorority or fraternity initiations) or in drinking "games" (for instance at certain parties) frequently involves drinking that can, and does, reach the lethal dose.

Obviously, excessive drinking can lead not only to impaired judgment but also to serious health problems that can result in death.

Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms

The Signs of Alcohol Poisoning. One of the first symptoms of alcohol poisoning is usually nausea, followed by vomiting. These symptoms are messages from your body that you consumed more alcohol than your body can metabolize. The following represent other signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning:

  • Absent reflexes

  • No response to being shaken or pinched

  • Confusion

  • Difficulty awakening the person

  • Inability to stand

  • Seizures

  • Having a rapid pulse rate

  • Slow, shallow, or irregular breathing

  • Blue-tinged skin or pale skin

  • Unconsciousness (passing out)

Alcohol Overdose Action Plan

What To Do in the Event of Alcohol Overdose. The most difficult aspect of saving someone from an alcohol overdose, interestingly, does not take place in the hospital Emergency Room.

Nor does saving a person from alcohol poisoning involve complicated medical treatment.

Frequently, the hardest part of an overdose case is correctly identifying the symptoms of alcohol poisoning (that is, the signs of alcohol poisoning) and making the decision to seek immediate medical help by calling 911.

The fear of embarrassment, public humiliation, possible legal repercussions (for instance, for underage drinkers), or a lack of knowledge about alcohol poisoning symptoms and the seriousness of overdosing from alcohol can lead to indecision, which can be fatal.

If you see any of the above symptoms of alcohol poisoning in a person who has been drinking, the following represents some guidelines for what to do:

  • If someone who has been drinking heavily persists in falling asleep, waken him or her. By the way, falling asleep after excessive drinking is one of the most prominent signs of alcohol poisoning. If the person does not respond easily, it is time to call the police emergency number (911) and ask for assistance.

  • Roll the person on her side so she will not choke if she vomits.

  • Do not assume that the person will "sleep it off" or would prefer not to be disturbed.

  • Getting the person home and in bed is not a good solution, and may actually place the drinker at risk due to the fact that he or she is no longer being observed.

  • Be sure to tell the ambulance driver or medical personnel if you believe that other drugs were also ingested.

Identifying the Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning. The basic idea when experiencing a possible alcohol overdose situation is this.

Do not take chances when someone's life is at stake.

If you suspect that a person has alcohol poisoning or is overdosing on alcohol (based on the person's alcohol poisoning symptoms), call 911 for immediate medical assistance, even if the person is underage.

It must be pointed out that alcohol can also be dangerous in smaller amounts if it is used in combination with the following drugs:

  • Narcotic pain medications (such as codeine, codeine derivatives, opium, heroin, and darvocet).

  • Sedatives (examples include barbiturates, tranquilizers, and cannabis).

  • Certain anti-seizure medications (such as phenobarbital).

In the United States, approximately 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning are reported each year, and roughly once every week, someone dies from this preventable medical condition.

Not only this, but when combined with other drugs, legal or illegal, alcohol accounts for approximately 33% of all drug overdoses in the United States.

Understanding the symptoms of alcohol poisoning and the causes for a toxic reaction, and responding intelligently and appropriately to such a situation, can help avoid a fatal overdose.

Conclusion: Alcohol Overdose Response

The Consequences of Alcohol Poisoning and Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms. Roughly 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning are reported each year in the US, and approximately once every week, someone dies from this preventable medical condition.

Additionally, when combined with other drugs, legal or illegal, alcohol accounts for about 33% of all drug overdoses in the United States.

Learning how to identify alcohol poisoning symptoms and comprehending the causes of a toxic reaction and responding appropriately and intelligently to such a circumstance, however, can help avoid a fatal overdose.

So when another person asks you what to do in the event of alcohol overdose, the best answer is this: "seek immediate medical assistance by calling 911."

Note: If a person experiences an alcohol overdose, by definition he or she is an alcohol abuser.

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As a result, this person needs to keep the following in mind: the more that alcohol is consumed in an abusive manner, the more likely it is that the drinker will become an alcoholic.

If this describes you, then you need to be honest with yourself and admit that you have a drinking problem.

Once you have taken this step, consider making it a priority to talk with an alcohol abuse and alcoholism professional today about getting alcohol treatment.

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