Abrons Student Health Center

Alcohol Poisoning

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning
For an all text copy of this chart see below:

Can You Tell If You're Too Intoxicated?

Generally, you can't tell. First of all, alcohol impairs judgment, making your ability to reason difficult, especially at high doses. Second, it takes a while for all the alcohol in the stomach to travel out of the gastrointestinal system and into the blood supply, where it then reaches the brain and other organs. Depending upon how much you drink, how quickly you drink, and what else is in your stomach, it may take anywhere from about 30-90 minutes after you stop drinking, before you reach your highest level of intoxication. Drinking "games" can be quickly fatal because large quantities of alcohol are often consumed over very short periods of time. Almost-straight alcohol drinks, such as EverClear, are especially dangerous.

What Happens to Your Body When You Get Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol depresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing and the gag reflex (which prevents choking). A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually stop these functions. It is common for someone who drank excessive alcohol to vomit since alcohol is an irritant to the stomach. There is then the danger of choking on vomit, which could cause death by asphyxiation in a person who is not conscious because of intoxication.

Remember that a person's blood alcohol concentration can continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. Even after a person stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. It is dangerous to assume the person will be fine by sleeping it off.

What Can Happen to Someone With Alcohol Poisoning That Goes Untreated?

  • Victim chokes on his or her own vomit.
  • Breathing slows, becomes irregular, or stops.
  • Heart beats irregularly or stops.
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature).
  • Hypoglycemia (too little blood sugar) leads to seizures.
  • Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting can cause seizures, permanent brain damage, or death.

Even if the victim lives, an alcohol overdose can lead to irreversible brain damage. Don't be afraid to seek medical help for a friend who has had too much to drink. Don't worry that your friend may become angry or embarrassed - remember, you cared enough to help. Always be safe, not sorry!

Text copy of the above image:

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning: How to Help a Friend

Try to wake your friend.

Can you get your friend to respond?

Listen to your friend's breathing.

Is it slow (8 breaths per minute or less).

Or irregular (10 seconds or more between breaths)?

Check your friend's skin.

Is it cold, clammy, or bluish?

Alcohol Poisoning Can Cause Death!

Don't take a chance with a friend's life!

1. Call for help. Call 911, University Police, or an Residential Life staff member.

2. Stay with your friend while waiting for help.

3. Make sure that your friend is lying on his or her side to prevent chocking.

University Police 962-2222

Housing & Residence Life 962-3241

CROSSROADS 910-962-4135