Signs of alcohol poisoning
- Confusion, stupor
- Slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
- Irregular breathing
- Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
- Low body temperature (hypothermia)
It's not necessary for all of these symptoms to be present before you seek help. A person who is unconscious or can't be roused is at risk of dying.
If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning
Even if you don't see the classic signs and symptoms, seek immediate medical care.
- If the person is unconscious, breathing less than eight times a minute or has repeated, uncontrolled vomiting, call 911 or Public Safety 320-308-3333 immediately. Keep in mind that even when someone is unconscious or has stopped drinking, alcohol continues to be released into the bloodstream and the level of alcohol in the body continues to rise. Never assume that a person will sleep off alcohol poisoning.
- If the person is conscious, call Public Safety for officer assistance. All calls to Public Safety are confidential.
- Be prepared to provide information. If you know, be sure to tell the Public Safety officers the kind and amount of alcohol the person ingested, and when.
- Don't leave an unconscious person alone. While waiting for help, don't try to make the person vomit. People who have alcohol poisoning have an impaired gag reflex and may choke on their own vomit or accidentally inhale (aspirate) vomit into their lungs, which could cause a fatal lung injury.
See the Mayo Clinic's alcohol poisoning website.
Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse
Alcoholism is a chronic disease that makes your body dependent on alcohol. You may be obsessed with alcohol and unable to control how much you drink, even though your drinking is causing serious problems with your relationships, health, work and finances.
It's possible to have a problem with alcohol, but not display all the characteristics of alcoholism. This is known as alcohol abuse, which means you engage in excessive drinking that causes health or social problems, but you aren't dependent on alcohol and haven't fully lost control over the use of alcohol.
Signs of Alcoholism/Abuse
- Drinking alone or in secret
- Being unable to limit the amount of alcohol you drink
- Not remembering conversations or commitments, sometimes referred to as blacking out
- Making a ritual of having drinks before, with or after dinner and becoming annoyed when this ritual is disturbed or questioned
- Losing interest in activities and hobbies that used to bring pleasure
- Feeling the need or compulsion to drink
- Irritability when your usual drinking time nears, especially if alcohol isn't available
- Keeping alcohol in unlikely places at home, at work or in the car
- Gulping drinks, ordering doubles, becoming intoxicated intentionally to feel good or drinking to feel normal
- Having legal problems or problems with relationships, employment or finances
- Building a tolerance to alcohol so that you need an increasing number of drinks to feel alcohol's effects
- Experiencing physical withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, sweating and shaking
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