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Alcohol poisoning occurs when a person drinks a toxic amount of alcohol, usually over a short period of time ( binge drinking ).
Being poisoned by alcohol can damage your health or even put your life in danger.
It's important to avoid misusing alcohol and to be aware of how much you're drinking and the effect this could have on your body.
This topic covers:
The signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
In the most severe cases, alcohol poisoning can lead to coma , brain damage and death.
If you suspect alcohol poisoning, call to request an ambulance immediately. While you're waiting:
Never leave a person alone to 'sleep it off'. The level of alcohol in a person's blood can continue to rise for up to 30-40 minutes after their last drink. This can cause their symptoms to suddenly become much more severe.
You also shouldn't give them coffee or any more alcohol, put them under a cold shower or walk them around. These won't help someone 'sober up' and may even be dangerous.
In hospital, the person will be carefully monitored until the alcohol has left their system. If treatment is required, this may include:
If a person is poisoned by alcohol they could:
Repeated vomiting and retching can lead to the vomiting of blood as a result of a torn blood vessel (Mallory-Weiss tear) at the junction of the stomach and gullet.
Drinking too much alcohol can affect a person's judgement and put them in situations where their health and safety are at risk. For example, they may:
Every time you drink alcohol, your liver has to filter it out of your blood. Alcohol is absorbed quickly into your body (much quicker than food), but the body can only process around one unit of alcohol an hour.
If you drink a lot of alcohol over a short space of time, such as on a night out, your body won't have time to process it all. Alcohol poisoning can also occur if a person drinks household products that contain alcohol – children sometimes drink these by accident.
The amount of alcohol in your bloodstream – known as your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) – will rise.
At this stage you should seriously consider not drinking any more alcohol.
If you do:
If you drink most weeks, to reduce your risk of harming your health:
One unit of alcohol is equivalent to:
Read more about alcohol units.
You should also avoid binge drinking as it's dangerous and puts you at risk of alcohol poisoning.
Read more about drinking and alcohol including tips on cutting down on your drinking.
Important: Our website provides useful information but is not a substitute for medical advice. You should always seek the advice of your doctor when making decisions about your health.