Alcohol Poisoning: Why Binge Drinking Is Not Harmless


shutterstock_249953563Binge drinking and excessive alcohol consumption can and will cause you grievous harm even if you are not an alcoholic. At high levels, alcohol is a fatal poison that can cause irreparable brain damage if it does not kill you. Because alcohol absorption and processing rates are different for different people, you might suffer alcohol poisoning while a colleague who is consuming the same amount as you continues to drink. You might not even realize that you have consumed a fatal amount of alcohol until well after you finished your last drink. Annually, approximately 50,000 people in the United States experience some form of alcohol poisoning. Hospital emergency rooms across the country report roughly one death per week from alcohol poisoning.


Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant. In addition to causing the mental confusion and disorientation that is associated with intoxication, alcohol depresses your heart and respiratory rates as well as your gag reflex. When you consume a fatally poisonous level of alcohol, your breathing and heart might stop altogether. Your body will attempt to rid itself of alcohol by causing you to throw up, but with a depressed gag reflex you can very easily choke on your own vomit. You might also become hypothermic or dehydrated, and your blood sugars will be thrown out of equilibrium, leading to seizures and brain damage.


Binge drinking, in which a person consumes a very large amount of alcohol in a short period of time, poses the greatest risk of alcohol poisoning. Binge drinking frequently takes place in response to a dare or on some special occasion, such as a person’s twenty-first birthday when he might be challenged to consume 21 shots of hard liquor. You can consume a large amount of alcohol in these situations before you lose consciousness. While you are drinking, your thought processes become increasingly muddled and your natural defenses are lowered, leading to consumption of even greater amounts of alcohol.


If you or a friend are ever in a binge drinking situation, your best response is to know the symptoms of excessive alcohol consumption and to take measures to protect the person who has succumbed to a binge drinking dare. If that person becomes incoherent or disoriented, if he looks pale or his skin has taken on a bluish tinge, or if his breathing is slow and he appears to be losing consciousness, take whatever steps you can to keep that person awake. Keep them in as upright a position as is possible. Letting them lie down increases the risk of choking and further loss of consciousness. Do not give them coffee or any other stimulants that might dehydrate them. Water and Gatorade are better choices if they are able to consume them. Lastly, do not think that you can solve the problem without medical assistance. A friend might suffer embarrassment if you take him to an emergency room after he has had too much to drink, but he will ultimately be grateful that you took steps to save his life.      


If you have survived one or more episodes of binge drinking, you are probably familiar with the effects and the aftereffects of binging. If you continue to binge drink and you feel that you are losing control over your alcohol consumption, please contact the staff and counselors at the Lead Recovery Center at 1-800-380-0012 for assistance and answers to any questions you might have about your drinking. Alcohol problems are best addressed before they devolve into alcoholism. We offer professional and personal counseling that can help you gain control over your drinking before it overwhelms you.