Alcohol poisoning

be well, SwanswellDrinking too much alcohol can result in acute alcohol poisoning. 

Important facts about alcohol poisoning:

  • it can cause your heart to stop leaving you unable to breathe and in severe cases you may have a heart attack
  • alcohol affects the gag reflex which means you could choke on your own vomit
  • there’s no minimum amount of alcohol required for alcohol poisoning to occur
  • the rate at which alcohol poisoning affects you will depend on your build, age, weight and gender
  • if you haven’t eaten much before drinking you’re more likely to suffer from alcohol poisoning
  • taking other drugs, in conjunction with alcohol, may increase your chances of alcohol poisoning

Signs of alcohol poisoning include:

  • confusion or unresponsiveness
  • lack of coordination
  • pale or blue-hued skin
  • seizures
  • slow or irregular breathing
  • unconsciousness
  • low body temperature

If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning:

  1. call the emergency services
  2. keep them sitting upright and awake
  3. keep them warm
  4. give them water
  5. lay them on their side (in the recovery position) if they pass out

Make sure you don’t:

  • leave them alone
  • give them coffee or other drinks that will dehydrate them
  • let them drink more alcohol
  • let them lie on their back

The importance of slow withdrawal from alcohol

If you’re going to stop drinking it’s best to plan it out so you withdraw slowly and safely. This is particularly important if you’re dependent on alcohol. If you decide to stop drinking suddenly you’ll experience physical withdrawal effects which could be fatal.

Withdrawal effects include:

  • shakes, sweats, headaches, nausea, rapid heartbeat and increased blood pressure
  • craving more alcohol which makes abstinence difficult
  • hallucinations that could last for a few hours or weeks
  • convulsions and seizures – it’s important that these are medically treated or they’ll become dangerous
  • Delirium Tremens (DT) – this includes confusion, disorientation, hallucinations, hyperactivity and cardiovascular disturbances
  • heart attacks and strokes as a result of DTs

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