Alcohol poisoning: A serious consequence of binge drinking

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Alcohol poisoning: A serious consequence of binge drinking


What is alcohol poisoning? How do you know if someone has alcohol poisoning?

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Alcohol poisoning is a serious — sometimes deadly — result of drinking excessive amounts of alcohol (ethanol). Binge drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning. The effects of alcohol depend on the concentration of alcohol in your blood (blood alcohol level). Factors that affect your blood alcohol level include:

  • How strong the alcohol is
  • How quickly you drink it
  • How much food is in your stomach at the time you drink it

Signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow or irregular breathing
  • Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
  • Unconsciousness ("passing out")

Alcohol is a stomach irritant and may cause vomiting. It also affects your central nervous system — slowing your breathing, heart rate and gag reflex. This increases the risk of choking on vomit if you're passed out from excessive drinking. If you suspect that someone has alcohol poisoning, seek immediate medical care. Blood alcohol level continues to rise even after the person has passed out.

Alcohol can also be harmful in smaller amounts if you use it in combination with:

  • Sedatives
  • Tranquilizers
  • Narcotic pain medications
  • Certain anti-seizure medications, such as phenobarbital

Last Updated: 12/21/2004
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