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Here are 7 Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol use continues to be a problem for thousands of Americans every single year. Along with the many short-term and long-term symptoms of excessive drinking, comes potentially dangerous results like alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning can be deadly in some cases and it’s important to recognize the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning. 

Drinking too much in one sitting can cause alcohol poisoning and other potentially deadly symptoms. It’s crucial to be able to spot the early signs of alcohol poisoning and get medical attention immediately. Knowing how to treat alcohol poisoning is also an important step in the process. Watch out for these signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning and don’t hesitate to get help if you notice them.

Some of the common signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing
  • Mental confusion
  • Pale skin or blue-ish skin
  • Hypothermia or low body temperature
  • Unconsciousness and semi-consciousness
  • Irregular or inconsistent breathing

What is Alcohol Poisoning and How Does it Occur?


Before taking a look at the different signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning, it’s best to define what it is. Alcohol poisoning is a set of symptoms that occur after a person consumes large amounts of alcohol in a short amount of time. Drinking in large quantities quickly can affect a person’s heart rate, breathing, temperature, and other areas of their body. 

Both adults and children can accidentally or unintentionally end up experiencing the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning in some cases. Particularly, this can occur if a person is unaware of certain products that contain alcohol in them. Alcohol poisoning is a frequent consequence of those who abuse alcohol on a frequent basis and is one of the many negative effects of alcoholism. If you notice any of the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning, get medical attention immediately. 

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning 

The signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning vary from physical and mental effects – they can also be rather hard to spot. People may be compelled to “sleep it off” while others may not even be able to recognize the early signs of alcohol poisoning. It’s imperative that everyone is aware of the signs of alcohol poisoning and how to address the situation at hand.

1. Unconsciousness, Passing Out, or Semi-Consciousness

One of the early signs of alcohol poisoning is unconsciousness. While some signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning can be tough to spot, unconsciousness can be spotted more clearly. A person will appear to be unconscious or barely conscious. If you notice that the person is unconscious, dial 9-1-1 immediately and get medical help. 

While you wait for help to arrive, do not leave the person alone. Try to keep them awake if you can; this can be done by talking to them, gently shaking them, or pinching them. They may be able to barely communicate at the moment. Make sure to stay with them until a medical professional arrives to help. It is also imperative to stay calm so you can think clearly in the situation. 

2. Confusion 

When someone becomes drunk, they will likely experience impaired motor functions, difficulty walking, and slurred speech, among other symptoms. Tolerance to alcohol differs from person to person. But some of these signs can appear after just 2 or 3 drinks for some individuals. If the person is struggling to talk or walk, it is clear that they have had too much to drink and may be prone to alcohol poisoning. It’s important to be extra attentive and cautious, even if you are unsure. 

A person who’s prone to alcohol poisoning will appear confused and impaired. This is one of the early signs of alcohol poisoning, one that should not be ignored. You should try to get the person to stop drinking immediately and contact 9-1-1 if you are worried that they may be experiencing alcohol poisoning. In these cases, time is at the essence and you can never be too careful. 

3. Seizures

Seizures are severe and clear signs of potential alcohol poisoning. When a person excessively drinks, their body may drop in temperature which can lead to hypoglycemia. Low blood sugar is referred to as hypoglycemia. In turn, a person may begin to feel dizzy and light-headed, which can lead to seizures. Once again, be sure to call 9-1-1 right away if you notice these signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning. 

4. Slowed or Shallow Breathing

If a person has consumed too much alcohol they may have trouble breathing, specifically shallow or slowed breathing. This is a serious symptom and 9-1-1 should be contacted immediately. Shallow or slowed breathing is best characterized by a person only breathing 8 or fewer times in a minute. Another way to tell is being able to count to 10 seconds in between breaths. 

Additionally, those who have a problem with alcohol use may experience withdrawal symptoms, sometimes within 6-12 hours of drinking. One of the common symptoms of alcohol use withdrawal is breathing. Regardless of whether a person has an alcohol problem or not, shallow breathing is a concerning red flag that should be given medical attention immediately. 

5. Pale, Blue-ish, and Clammy Skin

When a person has consumed a large portion of alcohol in a short amount of time they may appear to have blueish, pale, and/or clammy skin. If you notice this look on someone, they may be experiencing alcohol poisoning. In addition to these effects on the skin, a dip in temperature might occur as well. They may experience a lowered body temperature which can lead to hypothermia. This can affect a person’s nervous system and heart. If a person’s body’s temperature drops below 95-degrees Fahrenheit this can spell disaster and can even result in death or a coma. 

6. Vomiting

When a person drinks an excessive amount of alcohol, they are essentially poisoning themselves. One of the early signs of alcohol poisoning (and excessive drinking in general) is vomiting. The body’s reflex is to get rid of the alcohol in your body, hence vomiting occurs. While vomiting may not sound dangerous, there are a few factors that can make it dangerous while drinking heavily.

A person can easily end up choking on their own vomit, especially if they are laying down flat or are unconscious. This is another reason why you should always keep a close eye on those who are drinking heavily around you. A person can also choke and potentially die because alcohol impairs some of the brain’s functions and automatic responses. In this case, it’s important to be aware of anyone who may have drunk an excessive amount of alcohol. 

7. Low Body Temperature or Hypothermia

As mentioned, one of the many signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning includes a drop in temperature. A common misconception is that a person can warm themselves up by drinking alcohol, however, this is not the case. While a person may feel warm when drinking alcohol, it’s actually their blood vessels that are expanding, which makes the body lose heat quickly.

In some cases, a person may be too drunk to notice the intense drop in temperature, which stops them from getting warm. In much colder areas where there is snow, people who are intoxicated can end up passing out in the snow, which can be a recipe for hypothermia. It’s important to be aware of this and get help accordingly. 

Steps to Recovering From Alcohol Poisoning

If you notice that someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning, the first thing you should do is call 9-1-1 and get medical attention immediately. You should avoid giving the person coffee, food, drugs, or anything else other than water. Stay with the person in one place, don’t try to move around. 

While you wait for medical professionals to arrive, take note of every alcohol or drug the person consumed recently. Most importantly, try to keep the person awake until help officially arrives. You should also try to keep them up-right instead of lying flat, this helps avoid choking or vomiting complications. If they are unconscious, they should be laying on their side to avoid choking. When paramedics arrive, they will have their BAC level checked and will proceed to proper treatment.

How Long Can the Effects of Alcohol Poisoning Last?

While everyone has their own tolerance to alcohol, the effects of alcohol will take several hours to recover from. This could take much longer depending on complications and damage due to alcohol poisoning. If a person has pre-existing kidney/liver problems, it will be much harder to recover from alcohol poisoning. Some people end up suffering permanent damage in extreme cases of alcohol poisoning. 

Get Alcohol Use Treatment Today at Harmony Place

Knowing the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning is just part of the bigger picture. If you notice any of these red flags, dial 9-1-1 immediately and get proper help. Alcohol poisoning is a result of constant and excessive drinking, which sheds light on potential alcoholism (alcohol use disorder). If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol abuse, it may be time to get proper help. At Harmony Place, we provide a safe and quality environment to get the treatment you need. Don’t wait; give us a call today and start the journey towards a better life.