Texas A&M University-Kingsville

Alcohol Facts

Why is Alcohol Poisoning So Dangerous?

Alcohol is classified under the drug category as a depressant, and as such, its use causes effects and changes in the body and brain. Alcohol use slows down many of the functions of the body, including blood pressure, heart rate and breathing. If a person has put a large amount of alcohol in his or her system, the "slowing down" can lead to "passing out" and unconsciousness. And the vital organs, heart and lung, can be slowed down to the point of stopping.

How Much Alcohol Will Cause Poisoning?

Different people experience different effects. Some people who have little tolerance for alcohol or whose body is sensitive to the drug could be seriously at risk after six or seven drinks. Another person may have 10 drinks, be very intoxicated, but not suffer from unconsciousness. It is important to note that the body only oxidizes about one ounce (approximately one drink) an hour. Which means if people drink very quickly ( shots, drinking games, beer bongs) sometimes they will pass out and we will check on them and think they are okay, but all of the alcohol hasn't reached their brain yet.

What Can You Do?

There are steps to take if you encounter someone who could be suffering from alcohol poisoning.

  • Try to wake the person - Pinching their skin will help you gauge how far along in the "overdose" process they are since alcohol numbs the nerves.
  • Turn The Person on Their Side/Do Not Leave Them - If they vomit their airway will not be blocked and they will not choke.
  • Check Skin Color or Temperature - If a person is not getting enough oxygen their skin will turn pale or bluish and be clammy.
  • Check The Person's Breathing - If a person is to slow or shallow - less than 8 breaths a minute or more than 10 seconds in between breaths - this is a sign you should get help.
  • There Are No Absolutes/Everyone Is Different - These are just potential signs. A person may have one or all. There is not guarantee. So if you are unsure call 911.

Signs of Risky Use:

  • Drinks to relax
  • Lies about drinking
  • Rapid mood swings
  • Drinks alone
  • Hides alcohol
  • Can't limit drinks
  • Trouble in school
  • Troubles in work
  • Drinks at bad times
  • Health problems
  • Blackouts

Resources

This page was last updated on: August 21, 2013