Alcohol Poisoning During the Holidays

Drinking alcohol to excess is the cause of about 88,000 deaths per year in the United States alone. Abusing alcohol can lead to violence, car accidents, and alcohol poisoning; all of which are potentially fatal consequences that will surely put a damper on what should be considered one of the happiest times of the year spent with loved ones.

In the United States, binge drinking has become a huge problem as millions of Americans admit to drinking too much in a short period of time. Binge drinking may be defined as four or more drinks on a single occasion for women and five for men. A study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that 1 in 3 adults is an excessive drinker who mostly binge drinks.

While the holiday season is a time to celebrate and be joyful, it usually also brings about a decent amount of alcohol and higher tendencies for alcohol abuse. During the holiday season, alcohol is frequently more free flowing and visible for all. Because of this, there are higher chances at this time of year for binge drinking and its consequences, such as alcohol poisoning.

What Affects Your Tolerance for Alcohol

Age, gender, drinking experience, ethnicity, and the amount of food in your stomach can all affect how much alcohol is too much. An overdose of alcohol occurs at the point when an individual has a blood alcohol content level which is high, or sufficient enough, to cause impairments that may lead to harm. The severity of these overdoses vary. While one person may lack balance and slur their speech, another person may be struck with alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning, a deadly type of alcohol overdose, occurs when an individual continues to drink despite obvious and significant impairment. When this happens, the brain essentially shuts down basic life-support functions like heart rate, breathing, and temperature control.


Shockingly and sadly, this does not only affect adults but also small children. Children are far more at risk for alcohol poisoning, when compared to adults, because of their weight. The Drug and Poison Information Center in Cincinnati claimed that during the holidays they see an increased number of calls stemming from alcohol poisoning in children. This is because adults tend to leave unfinished alcoholic drinks lying around the house within reach of small children, especially if their judgment is impaired by said alcohol.

The key to preventing fatal consequences caused by alcohol abuse is knowledge. Drinking responsibly and knowing the signs of alcohol poisoning can prevent deaths and provide a jollier holiday season for all.

Signs and Symptoms

According to Mayo Clinic, there are a variety of signs pointing toward alcohol poisoning, but it is not necessary for the victim to show all of them before seeking help. It is important to note that someone who is unconscious and cannot be awakened is at serious risk of death. The signs include:

  • Seizures
  • Vomiting
  • Irregular or slow breathing
  • Mental confusion
  • Unconsciousness and is unable to be awakened
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Pale or blue skin

What You Should Do

If you suspect that an individual has alcohol poisoning after identifying some, or all, of the signs, you should be extremely aware that death is a possibility and call 911 immediately. It is extremely dangerous to assume that someone will be able to sleep off alcohol poisoning. The blood alcohol content of an individual can continue to rise in the body even while a person is unconscious. The alcohol continues to circulate through the bloodstream, awake or not. It is also a complete myth that coffee, walking, or taking a shower will reverse the effects of alcohol; these activities could make things worse.

What if You Don’t Do Anything?

There are many negative consequences a person could face after excessive drinking to the point of alcohol poisoning, especially if they are not medically treated. Things that can happen to a person if they are not treated in a timely and efficient manner include:

  • Severe dehydration caused by excessive vomiting
  • Dehydration which leads to seizures that may cause permanent brain damage or death
  • Choking on his or her own vomit
  • Breathing that becomes slow and eventually stops
  • Heart that beats irregularly and eventually stops
  • Hypothermia and Hypoglycemia, which leads to harmful seizures

Be Responsible

Although that extra cup of alcoholic eggnog might be tempting around the holiday season, be sure to drink responsibly no matter the time of year and of course continue to read our blog for more essential information. Knowledge of alcohol abuse and alcohol poisoning can help to keep you, your family, and your friends safe if anyone chooses to drink.

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