9 Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning, often known as alcohol overdose, occurs when an excessive amount of alcohol enters the bloodstream, causing the regions of the brain responsible for vital life support functions, such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control, to gradually stop functioning.

If you are concerned that a loved one or someone you know may be experiencing alcohol poisoning, here are nine signs you should look out for.

9 Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

It is critical to be aware of the symptoms associated with alcohol overdose for proper detection and in order to help people get the treatment they need. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, these may include:

  • Mental confusion
  • Challenges in maintaining consciousness
  • Episodes of vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Heart rate issues
  • Clammy skin
  • Dulled physical  responses 
  • Abnormally low body temperature

Excessive consumption of alcohol can have severe consequences, including the potential for permanent brain damage or even loss of life.

Mental Confusion

Alcohol has the ability to disrupt the intricate communication pathways within the brain, ultimately impacting its operation. Alcohol poisoning can significantly impair the functioning of crucial brain areas responsible for balance, memory, speech, and judgment. As a consequence, individuals may exhibit confusion, irrational speech, and a heightened susceptibility to accidents.

Challenges in Maintaining Consciousness

When blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches dangerously elevated levels, it can lead to loss of consciousness (passing out) and, in extreme cases, even death. Unfortunately, even if a person stops drinking or passes out, their BAC might still increase. Alcohol that has been digested and absorbed into the intestines and stomach will continue to circulate throughout the body via the bloodstream. For this reason, it is critical to help individuals suffering from alcohol poisoning get the medical attention they need.


Alcohol has the potential to irritate the delicate lining of the stomach and significantly impact the digestive system. It stimulates the production of stomach acid and slows down the rate at which the stomach empties, producing symptoms such as abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting.


Seizure control is an important function of GABA receptors. However, because alcohol heightens the effects of GABA, the brain is often much more relaxed than usual. Central nervous system depression is a common term for this phenomenon. Seizures are more likely to occur in people with preexisting illnesses that involve excessive nervous system depression. When combined with alcohol use, it can be a recipe for trouble.

Breathing Difficulties

When a patient’s BAC exceeds 0.4%, they may experience respiratory depression (hypoventilation), which can progress to coma and, in severe cases, result in death. Respiratory depression is characterized by a decrease in the rate and depth of breathing. Alcohol poisoning symptoms of this condition can manifest as a sense of breathlessness, frequent yawning, and an elevated heart rate. The symptoms experienced can vary in both intensity and duration, depending on the rate at which alcohol is consumed and how quickly the BAC rises and falls.

Heart Rate Issues

Alcohol is classified as a depressant, which means that it essentially slows down the brain’s ability to control the body. With this in mind, alcohol poisoning has the potential to disrupt the regular rhythm of an individual’s heartbeat. In some cases, this condition can potentially lead to cardiac arrest.

Clammy Skin

It is not uncommon for individuals to experience sweating after consuming alcohol, as this could be indicative of alcohol intolerance. However, in general, when individuals consume a significant amount of alcohol, it is common for various parts of their body, such as the face and hands, to become clammy. The reason behind this occurrence is that when the body is unable to process alcohol quickly enough through the liver, the pores start to expel the excess alcohol. Consequently, sweating becomes the body’s natural mechanism for alcohol release.

Dulled Physical Responses 

Excessive alcohol consumption can actually interfere with the brain’s ability to regulate automatic responses, like the gag reflex. If someone drinks excessively and reaches the point of passing out, it’s important to be aware of the potential risks they may face. One such risk is the possibility of choking on their own vomit, which can lead to a lack of oxygen and, in severe cases, even asphyxiation. In such situations, it’s crucial not to leave an unconscious person alone. Alternatively, you may also notify their loved ones to prioritize the individual’s safety and well-being.

Abnormally Low Body Temperature

Like many other substances, alcohol has the ability to disrupt thermoregulatory control processes. As a result, the drug stops the body’s natural way of releasing or retaining heat, affecting the individual’s internal body temperature.

With this in mind, it is crucial to emphasize the importance of caution when consuming alcoholic beverages in cold outdoor environments. Since alcohol both slows the onset and shortens the duration of shivering, it can give a false sense of confidence that can lead an individual to ignore exposure to dangerously cold temperatures, especially during the winter.

How Much Would You Have to Drink to Get Alcohol Poisoning?

Binge drinking is a significant contributor to the occurrence of alcohol poisoning. Binge drinking refers to the consumption of five or more alcoholic drinks within a span of two hours for males or at least four drinks within the same timeframe for females.

What to Do When Someone Has Alcohol Poisoning?

There are several actions you can take to provide assistance to an individual displaying severe symptoms of alcohol poisoning:

  • Call 911 for help.
  • Do not leave them alone.
  • Keep them awake, if possible.
  • If they are lying down, turn them on their side in case they vomit.
  • Provide drinking water to keep them hydrated if they are able to consume it.
  • Cover them with a blanket to keep them warm.

When the paramedics arrive, it is crucial to be prepared to provide them with any pertinent information you may have regarding the individual in question. To provide a comprehensive account of events, it would be helpful to include details regarding the individual’s alcohol consumption and their activities before your call to emergency services.

Navigating Life After Alcohol Poisoning in Birmingham, AL

If you or a loved one have suffered from the effects of alcohol poisoning and are seeking long-term recovery from alcohol addiction, Birmingham Recovery Center can help you find the best path forward to your goals.

Our compassionate, experienced, and highly trained staff is ready to help you with our array of services, which include detoxification, outpatient rehab, partial hospitalization, holistic addiction recovery, and more. Contact us today to get started on your road to wellness.


  • Ian Henyon, LPC

    Having worked in a variety of clinical settings since 2008, Ian brings well over a decade of treatment center experience to the leadership role at Birmingham Recovery Center. As Executive Director, he is responsible for all aspects of BRC’s operations and provision of services. Being firmly grounded in the notion of servant leadership, Ian is focused on establishing a supportive work environment as a foundation for providing superior clinical services to BRC’s clients. Ian combines his extensive knowledge of treating addiction and psychiatric illness with the recognition that addiction is a disorder of the brain, to ensure that all clients are treated with the highest levels of respect and compassion. Ian is a licensed professional counselor. He is a graduate of the University of Georgia and he received a Master of Science degree from Prescott College.


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