The signs of alcohol poisoning indicate a serious and possibly deadly condition. Drinking too much alcohol too rapidly can adversely affect a person’s heart rate, breathing, body temperature and gag reflex and can lead to coma and death.

Signs of alcohol poisoning may appear when adults binge drink and when children accidentally consume household products containing alcohol. An average of six people a day, mostly adult men, die from alcohol poisoning in the U.S.

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning develops when there is enough alcohol in the bloodstream to anesthetize the parts of the brain that control heart rate, breathing and temperature. When these basic life support functions begin to fail, it can quickly create a life-threatening situation.

Signs of alcohol poisoning occur when a person’s blood alcohol is at such a high level that it’s considered toxic. Signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Confusion
  • Stupor
  • Clammy skin
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased gag reflex
  • Slowed or irregular breathing
  • Seizures
  • Blueish or pale skin color
  • Drop in body temperature
  • Unconscious and cannot be aroused

How Much Alcohol Is Too Much?

When someone drinks a large amount of alcohol in a short period of time, the liver is unable to metabolize the alcohol quickly enough. It also takes time for the body to dispose of the toxins found in alcohol. Generally, the liver can safely process alcohol at a rate of approximately one drink per hour, but this can vary depending on the person.

There are many aspects that determine a person’s alcohol consumption threshold, such as weight, gender, the amount of food eaten, medical conditions and tolerance level. Since everyone is different, it’s not possible to predict how much someone can drink before alcohol poisoning occurs.

Even If Drinking Stops, Blood Alcohol Continues to Rise

As a person drinks, their blood alcohol content level rises. A BAC level can increase to the point where basic abilities are severely impaired.

A person can potentially develop signs of alcohol poisoning even after drinking stops, because their BAC level can keep increasing after the last drink. This means that if a person starts to exhibit signs of alcohol poisoning, stopping drink won’t reverse or stop a potentially life-threatening situation, because the BAC can still increase to dangerous levels.

What Happens If Signs of Alcohol Poisoning Go Untreated?

When people aren’t treated when they’re showing signs of alcohol poisoning, they can:

  • Choke on their own vomit
  • Stop breathing
  • Develop an irregular heartbeat
  • Experience cardiac failure
  • Develop seizures
  • Experience severe dehydration that leads to seizures, permanent brain damage and possibly death

When Signs of Alcohol Poisoning Appear, It’s an Emergency Situation

When signs of alcohol poisoning appear, it’s an emergency situation that needs immediate medical treatment. It’s not safe to let the person “sleep it off.” If you think that someone may have alcohol poisoning, even though there are no or only a few signs of alcohol poisoning, get immediate medical help. Call 911 or your local emergency number right away.