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Know the facts about alcohol poisoning

A hangover could be the least of your worries after a heavy night of binge drinking. Drinking toxic levels of alcohol, over a short but sustained period of time, can lead to alcohol poisoning. In this blog Port of Call gives you all the facts about what alcohol poisoning is and how to find help.

Facts on alcohol posioning

Alcohol is a poison like any other. It just so happens to be legal and very much available everywhere we go. Drink too much, however, and the worst case scenario could be unconsciousness, coma and even death. In short, by drinking to excess you’re potentially damaging your health and could even be putting your life in danger.

Recognising the signs of alcohol poisoning

For every drink we consume our livers then have to filter that alcohol out of our blood. Alcohol is rapidly absorbed by our bodies and yet it takes around an hour to process a single unit every hour. That’s the equivalent of just one 25ml single measure of whisky (ABV 40%), a third of a pint of beer (ABV 5-6%) or half a standard (175ml) glass of red wine (ABV 12%).

So by drinking large amounts of alcohol, over the concentrated period of a night out, we’re putting our bodies under a huge amount of stress trying to process it all. As a consequence, the amount of alcohol in our bloodstream, known as blood alcohol concentration (BAC), rises. The higher the BAC, the worse our body functions are affected.

Even at the legal drink drive limit, which is a BAC of 80 milligrams (mg) of alcohol per 100 millilitres of blood (dl), you can expect to lose some coordination and find your perceptions altered. At 100-200mg per dl impaired judgment, slurred speech, memory loss and involuntary movement of your eyes could kick in.

At 200-400mg per dl, you could experience double vision, sickness, hypothermia and severely slurred speech. Shockingly, alcohol levels more than 400mg per dl can result in severe breathing difficulties, coma and death. At these extreme levels, alcohol adversely affects automatic functions like breathing, your heartbeat and the gag reflex that stops you from choking.

Even 30-40 minutes after someone’s last drink, the alcohol levels in their blood can continue to rise, which can cause their symptoms to suddenly deteriorate. The signs of alcohol poisoning that you should look out for are:

  • Confusion.
  • Loss of coordination.
  • Vomiting.
  • Seizures.
  • Irregular or slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute).
  • Blue-tinged or pale skin.
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia).
  • Stupor – when someone’s conscious but unresponsive.
  • Unconsciousness – passing out.

The rule of thumb for alcohol poisoning is to be better safe than sorry. So if you think that someone might be experiencing it, even if you’re not absolutely certain, call 999 for an ambulance. Hospital staff will closely monitor them until all the alcohol has left their system.

Symptoms of alcoholism

You may have a drinking problem if any of these symptoms of alcoholism seem familiar:

    • You feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking.
    • You lie to others or hide your drinking habits.
    • You have friends or family members who are worried about your drinking.
    • You need to drink in order to relax or feel better.
    • You ‘black out’ or forget what you did while you were drinking.
    • You regularly drink more than you intended to.

Contact Port of Call 08000029010 and find out more about our drug rehab and alcohol treatment facilities. Discover how drinking too much alcohol can be treated through our network of addiction experts.

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