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Warnings about Alcohol Poisoning

Denise Denton is a drug education senior lecturer at Iowa State. She said that, “What most people don’t understand is that acute alcohol poisoning happens at a much lower level than what you would assume. Most people know that you probably shouldn’t do your 21 shots on your 21st birthday. What they don’t understand is that you can die way before you get to the 21st shot.”

Binge drinking, which is often described as drinking more than 5 drinks within an hour, has often led to death by alcohol poisoning. Why? And what is alcohol poisoning like?

Alcohol poisoning is very serious and as mentioned, it can also be deadly. We all know that alcohol goes directly to the brain, and the first parts to be affected are the areas of reasoning and motor skills. That’s why so many people do not make the correct choice about driving while inhibited by liquor – they don’t think clearly and have not made plans ahead of time to allow for that. It is also why people stumble or cannot walk a straight line.

Logically, think about what else is controlled by your brain. Alcohol poisoning happens when the alcohol infiltrates more of the brain and gets to the brain stem which controls breathing, heart rate and the gag reflex. Do you really want these important aspects of your body’s functions to be out of control?

Vomiting is a natural reaction when the blood alcohol level is getting too high. Your body knows there is something wrong and that the gag reflex is about to go out of commission and so your body tries desperately to get rid of the alcohol by sending it back out while it still can. Otherwise the body will continue to absorb alcohol until the brain is done for.

Alcohol continues to move into your bloodstream for 30-45 minutes after your last beverage is consumed. Alcohol poisoning leads to the cessation of breath and the stopping of the heart because the brain just gets altered and, well, shuts off those functions.

Hardly worth the buzz, is it?

Denton says that you start losing your ability to breathe efficiently with as few as three to six drinks in two to four hours. Many people who have escaped injury before think that they are invincible and it will not happen to them. But who is to know exactly what is going on inside of one’s body?

The signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning are: confusion; hypothermia (low body temperature); pale, sometimes bluish skin; unresponsiveness but conscious (also known as a stupor); passing out; unusual breathing rhythm (long pauses between breaths); very slow breathing (less than 8 breaths per minute); and vomiting.

Denton said that if the drinker passes out, he should never, ever be left alone to “sleep it off” because he may not wake up again. If he cannot be awakened or if he is vomiting, 9-1-1 should be called immediately. It’s likely to be alcohol poisoning and better safe than sorry.


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