Medications to maintain adequate blood pressure may also be needed. When you have alcohol in your system, you may also experience vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels), which decreases blood pressure. Vasodilation also causes blood to rush to the skin, potentially leading to hypothermia. As a CNS depressant, a high blood concentration of alcohol can also inhibit respiration, usually resulting in a slow, shallow breathing pattern.

EG is metabolized in a 2-step process by ADH and aldehyde dehydrogenase with first-order kinetics. In this mechanism, a constant proportion of the substance is eliminated per unit time and the rate of elimination is directly proportional to the amount of substance present. EG is first metabolized by ADH to glycoaldehyde, then to glycolic acid and oxalic acid by aldehyde dehydrogenase. Glycolic acid is the primary metabolite responsible for the severe metabolic acidosis seen with EG intoxications.

How Much Alcohol Can Kill You? It Depends

In addition, the process of metabolism of toxic alcohols to organic acids can be slow. The half-life of methanol to formic acid is approximately 6 – 18 hours with acidosis developing as late as 20 hours post ingestion (7). Because toxic alcohol poisoning may cause potentially irreversible damage in a time-dependent fashion, prompt diagnosis and treatment are crucial (2). Though we lack immediate testing for the toxic alcohols, there are useful laboratory clues that can help clinicians quickly zero in on the most likely toxic agent. Those clues include the osmol gap, the anion gap, and the patient’s acid-base status. This article will review the pathophysiology of these intoxications, the clinical presentations, the laboratory workup, and the treatment of toxic alcohol ingestions.

The authors conducted a literature search of primary and secondary sources related to the topic. For treatment recommendations, search restrictions included articles published between 2008 and 2019. For background information, search restrictions included articles written from 1990 – present. Use of this website and any information contained herein is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement. By Buddy T

Buddy T is a writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism.

Treatment for Alcoholism

This is particularly important to consider as alcohol weakens the walls of blood vessels and makes them more susceptible to rupture and bleeding. warning signs of alcohol poisoning also can occur when adults or children accidentally or intentionally drink household products that contain alcohol. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are 2,200 alcohol poisoning deaths in the United States each year. This article focuses on the medical aspects of alcohol poisoning, rather than other environmental dangers of alcohol abuse such as getting into fights, losing possessions, or having problems with the law. If the alcohol poisoning is extreme, the patient can go into a coma and potentially die.

alcohol poisoning

An alcohol overdose, or alcohol poisoning, is one health problem that can result from too much alcohol consumption. BACs between 0.60% and 0.80% are commonly fatal.7 However, the amount of alcohol it takes to kill a person can vary by individual factors. It’s important to be aware that binge drinking, or having 5 drinks for men or 4 drinks for women within a period of two hours, can cause a BAC that is higher than 0.08%.

Impact on your health

With no gag reflex, a person who drinks to the point of passing out is in danger of choking on their vomit and dying from a lack of oxygen (i.e., asphyxiation). Even if the person survives, an alcohol overdose like this can lead to long-lasting brain damage. As blood alcohol concentration (BAC) increases, so does the effect of alcohol—as well as the risk of harm. Even small increases in BAC can decrease motor coordination, make a person feel sick, and cloud judgment.

alcohol poisoning

BAC and the number of drinks you consume are very rough indicators of impairment. Alcohol intoxication can vary by tolerance (meaning whether your body is accustomed to the presence of alcohol through repeated use), your gender, body weight, body fat percentage, and other factors. While alcohol poisoning is certainly a concern for people with alcohol use disorder, alcohol poisoning is more common than most people realize and can happen to anyone who drinks. Symptoms and potential risks and complications of ingesting too much alcohol largely stem from the effect on the brain and blood vessels. Rapid fluid ingestion can be harmful in and of itself, as it can alters the fluid concentration in the body, potentially disrupting fluid and electrolyte balance. Alcohol use and taking opioids or sedative hypnotics, such as sleep and anti-anxiety medications, can increase your risk of an overdose.

Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose

If seizures are occurring, a short-term anticonvulsant medication can help stop them. Treatment for any injuries, such as head trauma or bone fractures, is often necessary as well. In some situations, a medical team may order imaging studies such as a brain computerized tomography (CT) scan to see if there is head trauma or bleeding. Blood pressure, breathing rate, pupil size, and responsiveness are all considered in the assessment.

The average person would have to consume 25 standard drinks to reach 0.40 percent BAC. Bear in mind that the drink you’re holding might be larger than a standard drink. If a person’s BAC exceeds 0.31%, it is considered a life-threatening situation in which they immediately need to be brought into the emergency room. At this point, someone’s vital functions can slow so significantly that they could slip into a coma.

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