More than 2,000 people die from alcohol poisoning every year in the U.S., according to…
Alcohol Overdose Can Happen Fast
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, moderate drinking is defined as no more than one drink a day for females or two drinks a day for males. Few American drinkers consume alcohol in a way that shows they are aware of such guidelines. Everything from happy-hour specials to peer pressure makes it easy to overdrink without intending to do so. And it’s possible to overdose on alcohol, which can be dangerous and even fatal.
How Alcohol Overdose Works
The alcohol a person drinks normally passes through filtration before entering the bloodstream. The amount of alcohol in the bloodstream is referred to as the blood alcohol content (BAC). When a person drinks too much, the filtration system can become overwhelmed and the blood becomes saturated with alcohol. And when that happens, normal body functions slow down and become impaired. The person can’t speak normally, walk normally or reason normally.
Risk Factors for Alcohol Overdose
Many factors influence the amount of alcohol needed to reach the toxic BAC level of alcohol poisoning (alcohol overdose). Things that can affect the danger point are:
- Gender – men metabolize alcohol more rapidly than women
- Age – older people will metabolize alcohol more slowly than younger people, although underage drinkers are the most apt to binge on alcohol (five drinks or more)
- Drinking history or experience
- Amount of food eaten – drinking water and eating food can help slow down toxic effects of alcohol
Typically, the more a person drinks, the higher their blood alcohol level becomes. And as BAC rises, body function goes down while potential dangers rise. It doesn’t take much of a rise in BAC for the body to show signs of trouble. Clumsiness is often laughed about, but reduced coordination is a sign that the brain is having trouble communicating with the body. Brain impairment also explains why a drinking person’s speech may start to slur. And while the body is struggling to perform basic requirements, alcohol is also clouding sound reasoning. The person feels more inclined to take risks at a time when their body is least able to respond to danger.
People who ignore these signs and continue drinking run the risk of overloading their body with more alcohol than it can filter. When the blood becomes too saturated with alcohol the brain starts telling important systems to shut down. Remember that alcohol is a depressant. This is why it makes drinkers feel relaxed. But with too much alcohol the heart may stop beating, the lungs stop breathing or temperature regulation may be compromised.
It’s tempting to believe that if the person passes out, danger has been avoided, but that isn’t the case. Alcohol may still be in the person’s gut, and if so, it will continue to enter the bloodstream, further raising the BAC level. In addition, if the body tries to rid itself of alcohol through vomiting while the person is unconscious, it is possible for the drinker to choke on the vomit.