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What Does an Overdose on Alcohol Look Like?

A study conducted by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism from 2001 to 2002 found that 17.6 million people in the United States had an alcohol abuse problem. This was more than 8 percent of the population. Consuming more than one alcoholic beverage per hour over a period of a few hours can lead to an overdose. Alcohol overdose symptoms include confusion, vomiting, seizures, labored breathing and loss of consciousness. If you or someone you love needs help with an alcohol addiction, help is available.

What Is Alcohol?

Alcohol is a liquid produced by the fermentation process. This process turns sugar, yeast and starch into ethyl and carbon dioxide. Alcohol is often referred to as ethyl alcohol or ethanol. An overdose of alcohol is also referred to as ethanol poisoning or alcohol poisoning.

How can You Overdose from Drinking?

alcohol-Intake-ProcessConsuming an excessive amount of alcohol can lead to an overdose. A person who has ingested too much of the beverage may begin to act strangely. Alcohol overdose symptoms vary from mild to severe. Mild symptoms include stumbling, slurred speech, incoherence and confusion. Coma, difficulty breathing, abdominal pain and loss of consciousness are severe signs of an overdose on alcohol. Those exhibiting severe symptoms require medical attention and should seek it as quickly as possible.

The Treatment Process

Alcohol overdose treatment is aimed at keeping the patient stable while the substance metabolizes from the body. In some cases, the individual’s stomach may need to be pumped to prevent any remaining alcohol from entering the blood stream. If vomiting has occurred, the patient may be given fluid intravenously to prevent dehydration. Often, glucose is given to regulate blood sugar and warm the body. If signs of an overdose on alcohol are detected, medical attention may be necessary.

Did You Know?

Alcoholic beverages are thought to have existed as early as 10,000 BC.

How Dependence Develops

Dependence on alcohol has many causes that can be different for each person afflicted with the disease. These factors come into play:

  • Genetic factors play a part in the development of an alcohol addiction. Individuals with a family history of the disease are more likely to become dependent. This may be due to the family environment or hereditary conditions of the brain.
  • Mental conditions such as depression are linked to excessive alcohol consumption. The substance has a calming effect, which eases these feelings in some people.
  • Individuals suffering from emotional problems are more likely to become dependent on alcohol. Often, these people feel alone, unloved or misunderstood. Consuming large amounts of alcohol ease the user’s troubled mind.
  • Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals are at a greater risk for alcohol addiction than those who are heterosexual. Members of the LGBT community may feel misunderstood, judged, unaccepted, bullied and discriminated against. These individuals may have issues fitting in at school or in the community. Drinking is a way of coping with these negative feelings.
  • Having friends who drink may influence some people to consume alcohol excessively. Peer pressure is a common reason teens begin drinking alcohol.

A person experiencing alcohol overdose symptoms on a regular basis may have an addiction to the substance.


One person is injured every minute from an alcohol-related crash.

Did You Know?

A serving size of alcohol is 0.6 ounces of “pure” alcohol per drink which is equivalent to:

  • 12 ounces of beer
  • 8 ounces of malt liquor
  • A 5-ounce glass of wine
  • 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, such as gin, whiskey, rum or vodka

Dangers of Excessive Consumption

Excessive alcohol consumption can be harmful and possibly fatal. Alcohol suppresses certain functions of the body such as the gag reflex and breathing. When a person has trouble breathing, oxygen cannot reach the brain and damage can occur in some cases. Repeated overdose can cause liver failure and have an adverse effect the heart. One of the alcohol overdose symptoms is loss of consciousness. A person attempting to operate a motor vehicle while intoxicated may pass out while driving. This can lead to an accident, which can harm occupants of the car as well as others on the road. In severe cases, an overdose can lead to coma.

Getting Immediate Medical Assistance

If someone you know is exhibiting signs of alcohol overdose, the following steps should be taken:

  • Call for emergency medical assistance.
  • Roll the individual onto his or her left or right side to prevent choking if vomiting occurs.
  • Do not leave the person alone.
  • Pay attention to the victim’s breathing and administer CPR if needed.
  • Keep food, beverages and alcohol away from the person.
  • Talk to the individual and keep him or her calm.
  • Try to keep the person awake.

Preventative Steps to Avoid an Overdose

Overdose related to alcohol consumption can be prevented. Consume no more than one serving per hour, and do not consume alcoholic beverages on an empty stomach. Avoid drinking when feeling depressed or lonely, and avoid drinking if you or a family member has a history of alcoholism. If you need more tips about avoiding alcohol overdose or need help finding alcohol addiction treatment, contact us today at .

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