Alcohol poisoning is very serious and can be life-threatening. If your child is displaying signs of alcohol poisoning, immediately seek help by calling 911.

Yes, alcohol poisoning kills people. In fact, there are an average of 6 alcohol poisoning deaths every day in the United States. The condition is tragically common among the young; among these fatalities, about 54 deaths per year are people under 21.

Binge drinking among teens is a major cause of these alcohol poisoning deaths. A 2017 survey by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that an estimated 13.5% of high schoolers had met the criteria for binge drinking within the last 30 days, defined as at least 4 drinks in a row for females and 5 drinks in a row for males. Drinking excessively can quickly lead to teen alcohol overdose, so it’s important to be able to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning.

People who do choose to drink can prevent alcohol poisoning by taking steps to stay safe. These steps include drinking slowly, alternating between drinking alcohol and water, eating a full meal before drinking – and, yes, choosing to avoid drinking altogether. If someone is spending time with others who are drinking, they should know the warning signs of alcohol poisoning and be prepared to call for help if needed. Overall, the more alcohol a person drinks, the more their risk of death increases.

Effects of Alcohol Poisoning

There are many ways in which alcohol poisoning can kill a person. If someone consumes an excessive amount of alcohol without seeking treatment, they can be at serious risk of injury or death. High amounts of alcohol in the bloodstream can suppress someone’s gag reflexes, and they are much more likely to choke on vomit in their sleep.

Too much alcohol also causes an irregular heartbeat. If an individual has had too much to drink, their heart can become unable to properly distribute oxygen to the rest of their body, which can lead to damage to other organs. Their heart can even stop completely, leading to death.

Alcohol poisoning also causes significant brain damage. Drinking heavily on a regular basis can lead to learning and memory problems. If someone drinks more alcohol than their liver is able to process, ethanol and other toxic compounds will build up in their system over time. This ultimately leads to damage to brain cells, degradation of brain tissue and swelling of the brain.

Alcohol poisoning can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately. Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone contact Web Poison Control Services for online assistance.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is more than just being drunk. It occurs when someone has had so much alcohol that their body begins to essentially shut down. Signs of an alcohol overdose include:

  • Being confused or disoriented
  • Vomiting
  • Breathing slowly or irregularly
  • Seizures
  • Clammy, pale, or blue-tinged skin
  • Passing out and being unable to wake up

If you think someone is dealing with alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately. Have the person sit or lie on the ground, and stay with them until help arrives. If they are throwing up, help them avoid choking on their vomit by having them lean forward or rolling them onto their side. Things like taking the person on a walk, giving them caffeine, or making them take a cold shower do not actually help sober them up and may end up causing more harm.

Alcohol poisoning can be fatal. If you suspect someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning, call 911 immediately. Do NOT be afraid to seek help. If you do not have access to a phone contact Web Poison Control Services for online assistance.

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Editor – Renee Deveney
As a contributor for Advanced Recovery Systems, Renee Deveney is passionate about helping people struggling with substance use disorder. With a family history of addiction, Renee is committed to opening up a proactive dialogue about substance use and mental health. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Maureen McNulty
Maureen is an academic researcher with a passion for science communication. She has a bachelor's degree from The Ohio State University, where she majored in Molecular Genetics and minored in English. Read more
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Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.