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Edited & medically reviewed by THE BALANCE Team
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Did you know, almost around 6 Americans each day die from Alcohol Poisoning? This means 2,200 annual deaths due to Alcohol Poisoning altogether! It is tragic to see such a high number of deaths which can easily be prevented with just a little care! The consumption of Alcohol has become readily prevalent in our society worldwide. However, this also increases the severe health hazards brought about by Alcohol, amidst which Alcohol Poisoning and Intoxication remain the worst outcome. However, these fatal consequences can easily be avoided if you drink in moderation and avoid Binge drinking or High-Intensity Drinking which are the leading causes of death by Alcohol.

Two dark bottles of alcohol.

Alcohol Poisoning is also known as Alcohol Intoxication. It occurs when you consume a large amount of alcohol within a short period. The symptoms or changes then experienced by you become apparent within some time. These symptoms are the result of Alcohol Poisoning. The majority of these symptoms are life-threatening, some may even prove to be fatal. Thus Alcohol Poisoning is undoubtedly a medical emergency.

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However, it must be mentioned that the time frame for the onset of these symptoms and the severity of these symptoms is greatly influenced by multiple other factors. Some of these factors are:

  • Amount of Alcohol Consumed
  • Rate of Consumption of Alcohol
  • Where Alcohol was consumed on a full or empty stomach
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Body Weight
  • Genetics

Alcohol Poisoning as the name suggests is simply being poisoned by Alcohol. However, Alcohol is being consumed very commonly in our everyday life. How do we know when Alcohol becomes potentially life-threatening to us? It becomes life-threatening to you when you cross a standardized safe limit for Blood Alcohol Content which is the concentration of alcohol present in your blood at the given time. Chances of Alcohol Poisoning are directly proportional to your Blood Alcohol Concentration. 

  • The more you drink Alcohol 
  • Higher your Blood Alcohol Content Rises 
  • Increasing the chances of Alcohol Poisoning

NOTE: It is important to highlight that the risk of Alcohol Poisoning lingers afterward for quite some time even if you have stopped drinking!

Most of the Alcoholic beverages you consume consist of water-soluble alcohol known as ethanol. According to the standard, one drink equals 0.05 ounces of ethanol or Alcohol. Since Ethanol is water-soluble, it has no difficulty in passing through the cells of your body as 95% of your body is water. Therefore ethanol easily slides into your circulation and from there onwards reaches every functioning tissue of the body that contains water. Hence, there is no denying the fact that the more you consume alcohol, the higher your BAC will be.

What are Alcohol Detoxification and Side Effects?

The catch to this entire phenomenon is the rate of metabolization of Alcohol. No matter how much quantity of Alcohol is present in your body, the rate of metabolization stays the same. According to the National Institute of Alcohol and Alcoholism, it takes about 2-7 hours on average to bring back the BAC to zero after consuming one standardized drink. This means that detoxification is still under process long after you have stopped drinking. Thus allowing Alcohol to stay in your body for a far greater time than you like. However, a higher BAC, in any case, is only dangerous for your health.

Effects Of Higher Blood Alcohol Concentration On You

The longer alcohol stays in your body the more dangerous it becomes for you. If the amount of Alcohol is much greater than the pace it can be metabolized, it can result in some very unfavorable consequences. Alcohol affects almost all of your vital organs and impairs their functioning. This means your health becomes a liability.

Some of the effects produced by a High BAC are as follows:

  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Delayed Reflexes
  • Cognition and Memory Issues

In a medical setting, to correctly form a diagnosis, the following tests may be done. These tests are done to determine your Blood Alcohol Concentration at the given time.


It is performed to detect the Blood Alcohol Content of different types of viruses or diseases by your breath. When you consume alcohol, it ends up in your lungs through the blood circulation. From there it diffuses as well with the gaseous exchange. Thus, when you expire in a breathalyzer, it can estimate the amount of alcohol concentration in your blood.

Blood Test

A sample of blood will be withdrawn to determine directly the amount of alcohol present in your blood. It gives the most accurate results around six to twelve hours after you have had your last drink.

Clinically Danger Signs Of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol Poisoning may become a medical emergency if you experience severe Alcohol Intoxication. In any case, if you find yourself or anyone around you suffering from the following signs and symptoms you must immediately call 911 and get hospitalized!

  • Retarded Breathing
  • Chest Pain
  • Hallucinations and seizures
  • Dizziness
  • Continuous Vomiting
  • Being Hypothermic
  • Unconsciousness

Anything that causes you to drink more often or to consume a heavy amount of Alcohol may result in Alcohol Poisoning. These triggers causing you to overdose yourself with Alcohol pave the way for Alcohol Poisoning by two main courses of action. These are Binge Drinking or High-Intensity Drinking.

Binge Drinking

Binge drinking is just like watching your favorite season. Back to the back episode, only in this case, it is a drink back to back which also might become potentially serious. It is considered when you drink enough amount of Alcohol to increase your BAC to 0.08% or higher in a time frame of 2 hours. This usually means if you consume 4 drinks if you’re a woman or 5 drinks if you’re a man.

According to the surveys, Binge drinking is more common among young adults. Ranging between the ages of 28-34 years. However, the results are mainly inclined towards the thirties age group. Meaning almost half of the binge drinkers belong in their thirties, maximum around the age of 34 or older.

High-Intensity Drinking

High-Intensity Drinking is considered far more lethal and worrisome than the usual binge drinking. This is because High-Intensity Drinking concludes by drinking 10-11 drinks during a single event. Meaning during High-Intensity Drinking you consume about 5 times more drinks than during a binge episode.

According to research being conducted, it has been found out that there is a far higher degree of prevalence of High-Intensity Drinking Adolescents and young teens in comparison with any other age group. This incidence of High-Intensity Drinking has been narrowed down to peak at around 21 years of age. 

Generally, Alcohol Poisoning occurs in seven distinct stages where each stage is succeeded with worsening progress than its predecessors. This is because, during each stage, the level of Blood Alcohol Concentration increases with each stage hence adding to the severity of the symptoms. 

These stages are listed below:


This is the first stage of Alcohol Poisoning. During this intoxication level is extremely low. It occurs if a person has consumed one or fewer drinks in the past hour. Therefore there are no apparent signs such as drowsiness or slurred speech. During this stage, the Blood Alcohol Concentration is very less and may range between 0.01 to 0.05%.


 If you drink two to three drinks in an hour, you will most likely now enter the Euphoric Stage. During this stage, there are some evident signs of intoxication however not very severe. You will tend to feel more confident, extroverted, and talkative. However, some of the negative impacts will also be seen. Such as reduced alertness, delayed reflexes, and motor disturbances. Blood Alcohol Concentration during this stage may range between 0.03 to 0.12%.


Being excessively excited is the third stage. During this stage, your Blood Alcohol Concentration may lie between 0.09 to 0.25%. At this time you start feeling the effects of Alcohol on a more profound level manifesting as emotional outbursts. You may also have significant memory issues, loss of balance, and even vision problems. 

Luxury Inpatient Alcohol Rehab

The ones around you will easily be able to tell that you are drunk. This happens when you drink at least four to five drinks in an hour.


When you consume more than five to six drinks, you are most likely to enter the stage of confusion. During this stage, your Blood Alcohol Concentration lies between 0.18 to 0.30% and you feel confused about everything. Your cognition and coordination are impaired which means your gait is disturbed and you may be waggly while walking. You also tend to be disoriented, forgetting where you are. There are also high chances of experiencing blackouts without completely losing consciousness. The effects of this stage make you vulnerable to serious kinds of injury.


At this stage of Alcohol Poisoning, severe effects begin to kick in. You may become completely disoriented from your surroundings, unable to tell what’s going on. Absolute loss of motor coordination therefore you won’t be able to walk.

In addition to this, your reflexes become seriously disturbed such as gag reflexes. It is a huge concern at this point because death may occur if a person chokes from their vomit. At this stage, it becomes of immense importance that you seek medical help.


During this stage, your breathing and circulation are slowed down to such an extent that functional systems become severely impaired. Motor responses are extremely delayed. Your body temperature may also drop to several degrees resulting in hypothermia and blue-tinged skin.The Blood Alcohol Concentration during this period is dangerously high. It will range between 0.35 to 0.45. Emergency Medical Intervention is necessary to prevent mortality.


If your Blood Alcohol Concentration level reaches more than 0.45, there are chances of death. Your body at this stage becomes incapable of sustaining vital functions to ensure your survival.

NOTE: Death may even occur at lower ranges of Blood Alcohol Concentration than this. There is no fixed range so it may vary from person to person.

It is easily possible to get confused between Alcohol Poisoning and having a Hangover. Because the majority of the symptoms of these conditions have a significant overlap. However, this puts you in a critical situation. If your friend passes out, how can you tell if he is having just a hangover or a potentially life-threatening Alcohol Poisoning? To guide you through this, the following are some of the moderate to severe symptoms of a hangover. If you find anything beyond these, you must call medical help immediately!

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Common symptoms of a hangover are

  • Shakiness or trembling of the hands
  • Increased Thirst
  • Short Attention Span
  • Irritable, anxious, or depressed
  • Fatigue and Headache

The above-mentioned symptoms are more likely to present with a hangover, however, if you find your friends to be unconscious or have trouble breathing, it might mean Alcohol Poisoning.

  • What is the reason behind women being more vulnerable to Alcohol Poisoning than men?
  • Why do women have a lower Alcohol threshold than men?

Several studies have pointed out the fact that the female gender is more susceptible to all kinds of Alcohol-related disorders and complications in comparison with men of the same age group and consuming similar amounts of Alcohol.

Why is it so? The answer to these questions lies in the differences in the metabolism of Alcohol between both genders. Alcohol is mainly metabolized in the liver, as it is commonly known, however, a small remainder of metabolization also occurs in your stomach. This is due to the presence of enzymes in the gastric mucosa which is responsible for the degradation of Alcohol. This enzyme is known as Alcohol Dehydrogenase. 

It is found in decreased quantities in women as compared to men, therefore women experience a less First-pass metabolism of alcohol by the stomach leading to increased Blood Alcohol Concentration. Hence, resulting in women becoming more prone to Alcohol Poisoning and similar complications.

Both these conditions are quite prevalent in our time and we see or hear the majority of such cases in our everyday life. Individually these are severe and life-threatening medical conditions themselves but the simultaneous presence of these medical conditions is proved to be much more worrisome. Research has been conducted to determine the influence of Chronic Alcohol Poisoning on the onset, severity, and management of ischemic stroke, which is worldwide a lethal but frequent condition. 

According to the results obtained by this research, it was found out that Alcohol Poisoning only exacerbates the outcome of an ischemic stroke. It increases the mortality and morbidity of stroke patients. This is because Alcohol Poisoning leads to severe and irreversible damage to the neurons. Not only this, but it also tends to hamper the management of stroke patients, reducing the efficacy of minocycline which has proven to be neuroprotective and has been used in the management of Alcohol Poisoning.

Death arising from Alcohol Poisoning has become a serious concern and therefore has caught the attention of the authorities. To determine the frequency of death based on age, gender, and ethnicity, data has been collected in the United States of America.

According to this data, the following statistics have been concluded:

  • Predominant Deaths by Alcohol Poisoning occur among middle-aged adults. These usually fall between the ages of 35-64 years, while peaking maximum at ages 40-45.
  • Men are more likely to die due to Alcohol Poisoning than women. This is based on evidence of 70% deaths of men while the death rate of women only being 30%
  • Non-Hispanic White Males are more prone to mortality by Alcohol Poisoning owing to their 65% frequency among others.
  • American Indians and Alaskan Natives have been found to have the maximum number of deaths from Alcohol Poisoning per million people in comparison with other races.
  • The state of Alabama was recorded to have the least number of deaths because of Alcohol Poisoning while Alaska ranked first in terms of death frequently occurring due to Alcohol Poisoning.

If you develop symptoms of severe Alcohol Poisoning, you must be rushed to the hospital the very instant. Reaching in time to get prompt treatment by the Health Care Professionals can significantly reduce the possibilities of a tragedy.

Alcohol Intoxication Treatment

Once you are in a hospital setting, you will most likely be managed by the following medical interventions:


The first course of action will be to rehydrate you as soon as possible. For this reason, you will be given intravenous fluids to normalize your plasma water content along with balancing your electrolytes. You may also be given a dextrose I/V to restore your blood sugar levels.


One of the dangers of Alcohol Poisoning is the inability to breathe in a regular pattern along with retarded breathing. This means you will be low on oxygen, therefore giving you oxygenation will be immediately done through a nasal cannula.

Gastric Pumping

To remove the Alcoholic toxins from your stomach, gastric pumping will be performed. This will ensure a decreased quantity present in your stomach for absorption into your circulation.


In case of any kind of Renal Function compromise, your kidneys will fail to filter Alcohol from your blood. This may pave the way for unfavorable outcomes, hence your health care professionals will advise instant dialysis so that excess amounts of Alcohol can be withdrawn from your blood.

As for much other poison, there are a few antidotes developed for Alcohol Poisoning. Ethanol and Fomepizole predominate in this department. This is because both of these have a direct association with the key enzyme responsible for metabolizing alcohol. 

Ethanol is a substrate for this enzyme while Fomepizole inhibits this enzyme. However, Ethanol has been far more used in clinical settings to treat Alcohol and is widely available. It can be given orally or intravenously. The only downside to administering Ethanol is it requires hospitalization in Intensive Care Units where the treatment continues.

Fomepizole in comparison with Ethanol is an FDA- approved drug. It has proved to have increased efficacy than ethanol along with delivering only mild adverse effects. This is the reason many countries have replaced ethanol with fomepizole as the mainstay antidote for Alcohol Poisoning. However, the cons of fomepizole include its expensive cost and unavailability in all clinical settings.

Consuming Alcohol is fine but excessing Alcohol can cause you some irreversible damage. For little fun and celebration, the stakes are too high. Bit by bit Alcohol can become a potential poison for you in no time if you are not careful. 

However, regardless of your drinking habits, one should be aware of the toxicity that may happen due to Alcohol Poisoning. It is better to be aware of the dangerous signs caused by Alcohol Poisoning because if you recognize these signs in yourself or anyone around you, you might just save a life!


The Balance RehabClinic is a leading provider of luxury addiction and mental health treatment for affluent individuals and their families, offering a blend of innovative science and holistic methods with unparalleled individualised care.


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