Getting drunk and watching others under the influence can be amusing, but alcohol poisoning is no joke. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 6 Americans die each day from alcohol poisoning, which occurs because alcohol suppresses activity of critical brain regions (See References 2). You can help prevent the consequences of alcohol poisoning by knowing its signs and getting help as soon as you recognize them in someone.
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Alcohol shuts down certain areas of the brain and can lead to confusion or a stupor, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, or NIAAA (See References 3). Loss of consciousness can occur by the time the blood alcohol concentration, or BAC, reaches a 0.16 to 0.30 percent, or severe impairment. Sleeping it off, drinking coffee, and taking a cold shower are popular strategies for overcoming an overdose of alcohol, the effects of alcohol poisoning can include long-lasting damage to the brain (See References 3).
Vomiting can occur because alcohol irritates the stomach, esophagus and intestines. Health promotion specialists at Columbia University explain the irritation can cause stomach inflammation and vomiting (See References 4). Another cause of vomiting is the increased amount of triglycerides in liver cells due to the presence of alcohol. Individual differences, such as in production of a alcohol metabolizing enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, can cause some people to vomit more than others in response to alcohol. Vomiting is dangerous during alcohol poisoning because you can choke on your vomit and die from asphyxiation while unconscious (See References 1).
Seizures can result from hypoglycemia that occurs with alcohol poisoning, according to College Drinking Prevention (See References 1). You can reduce your risk for hypoglycemia and seizures while drinking by avoiding drinking on an empty stomach and by not exercising before drinking. Avoiding binge drinking is another safety measure to prevent hypoglycemic seizures. Since seizures can also result from dehydration, you can lower your risk by drinking water while you are drinking alcohol.
Slow or Irregular Breathing and Hypothermia
Alcohol can poison your brain’s respiratory center, according to College Drinking Prevention (See References 1). The result can be slow breathing, which NIAAA defines as fewer than eight breaths each minute, or irregular breathing, which occurs when at least 10 seconds occur between breaths (See References 3). Loss of consciousness can occur when your BAC is 0.16 percent or higher, and suppression of vital functions puts you at significant risk of death once your BAC reaches 0.31 percent (See References 3).