How much alcohol can cause an overdose or intoxication? How to act

A beer with friends, a couple of cocktails, is common as we grow up.

However, a night of drinking can get out of hand. How much alcohol can cause an overdose or intoxication? Find out and how to act in these cases.

We cannot deny it, most of us have had a “crazy night”, which does not make us say “I will not do it again”, but it is not always “harmless”.

More than once we have read about people who die from drinking an entire bottle of alcohol or many shots, as part of a challenge or contest… no, these are not isolated cases.

What is an alcohol overdose?

An overdose, or alcohol intoxication, refers to when there is so much alcohol in the blood that areas of the brain responsible for controlling basic life functions begin to shut down, which can lead to permanent brain damage or death.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), anyone who consumes a lot of alcohol too quickly may be in danger of an alcohol overdose, especially when drinking to the point of raising the blood alcohol level to 0.08 percent or plus.

The problem is that, according to specialists, this level can continue to increase, even when you stop drinking or if you are unconscious, as the alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the blood and circulate throughout the body.

The consumption of alcohol that puts your life in danger varies from person to person. However, you’re at higher risk if you drink alcohol too quickly or if your blood alcohol level rises to 0.08 percent or higher, which can happen after you’ve had 4 drinks in about two hours, if you’re a woman.

In men, this number increases to 5 drinks in 2 hours, approximately. This is what is known as a binge, one of the main causes of alcohol poisoning, as explained by the Mayo Clinic Medical Institute.

Similarly, if you drink twice or more than the binge drinking limits for men and women, you may be at risk.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explain that drinking 8 or more drinks a week if you’re a woman, or 15 or more drinks a week if you’re a man, is considered too much drinking.

What is considered a drink? Each alcoholic beverage has different percentages of alcohol, therefore, a drink is not necessarily a “cuba“, but is equivalent to:

  • A 355-milliliter regular beer, equivalent to 5 percent alcohol
  • A 148-milliliter glass of wine, equivalent to 12 percent alcohol
  • A 44-milliliter shot or measure of hard or distilled liquor (tequila, rum, vodka, whiskey, gin), equivalent to 40 percent alcohol

Likewise, it is important to clarify that drinking too much or doing so in a short period of time is not the only risk factor for developing alcohol intoxication or overdose. Your age, alcohol tolerance, gender, the medications you take, or the amount of food you ate can all contribute.

For example, if you take opioids or sedative-hypnotics (such as medications for sleep and anxiety), your risk of overdose is higher. In some cases, over-the-counter antihistamines can also become a dangerous combination with alcohol.

What are the symptoms of alcohol overdose?

Being a “bad drink” is not the only sign that a person is drunk or has exceeded their alcohol consumption. Trouble breathing, mental confusion, and even vomiting could indicate that the person is in danger.

According to specialists from the nih, cdc and mayo clinic, you should not ignore the following symptoms:

  • Mental confusion and/or stupor
  • Difficulty staying conscious or inability to wake up
  • Threw up
  • seizures
  • Slow and/or irregular breathing
  • slow heart rate
  • cold and clammy skin
  • reactions off
  • Extremely low body temperature, bluish or pale skin color

Acting immediately, even if not all symptoms are present, is essential to avoid complications, from choking on your own vomit, suffocation, severe dehydration, to brain damage or death.

What to do if someone has an alcohol overdose?

There are many home remedies that we usually apply when someone is “drunk”, however, none of them are effective and can make things worse. If someone has symptoms of alcohol overdose or intoxication, it is best to seek emergency medical help.

According to the nih, cold baths, hot coffee, or long walks do not reverse alcohol overdose and can result in something worse.

Similarly, letting an intoxicated person sleep until the effects wear off is dangerous, as they could choke on their vomit, since a high level of alcohol reduces the gag reflex, increasing the risk of suffocation.

Therefore, the best way to act in the event of an alcohol overdose is to call the emergency room and provide information about what you drank, how much and if you took any type of drug to the doctors or paramedics.

And, if the person is already vomiting, tilt them forward so they don’t choke and, if they’re lying down, move them to the side.

Getting an “unforgettable drunk” is not a game, in some cases it could end very badly. Now that you know how much alcohol can cause intoxication, avoid bingeing, drink in moderation and never on an empty stomach… and don’t hesitate to call the emergency if something goes wrong.