People that binge drink frequently or drink heavily are at risk of alcohol poisoning. While these drinking habits could indicate alcohol use disorder (AUD), not everyone with a drinking problem has AUD. However, continuing to binge drink or drink heavily can be risky and life-threatening. As such, it is worthwhile to learn more about alcohol poisoning and how long alcohol poisoning lasts.
What is BAC?
To better understand what alcohol poisoning is, you need to know what blood alcohol level or BAC (blood alcohol concentration) is and how it affects the amount of alcohol in one’s body. BAC is the percentage of alcohol currently circulating in the bloodstream after consuming a set number of drinks.
For example, a BAC of 0.08 percent means that there are 0.08 grams of alcohol in 100 milliliters of blood. This is also the legal limit in most states, meaning if you are stopped with a BAC of 0.08 percent, you are considered impaired and should not be driving.
Generally, a person’s BAC increases by 0.02 percent for every drink when drinking a standard drink. However, the person’s weight, the volume of the drink, and other factors will determine how fast BAC increases. In addition, it takes about an hour for one drink for the body to metabolize it and for BAC levels to decrease.
What is Alcohol Poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning is when a person consumes an excessive amount of alcohol in a relatively short period. As a result, the BAC increases much faster than the body can metabolize the alcohol and remove it from the body.
For instance, if a man who weighs 200 pounds binge drinks 15 drinks in two to three hours, their BAC would be around 0.30 percent. At this level, they have alcohol poisoning. Once they reach this level, if they are still conscious, they most likely will experience a blackout.
Furthermore, a BAC of 0.30 percent is extremely dangerous. People that have reached this level are at risk of dying due to the effects of alcohol. Therefore, they need immediate medical care.
Anything higher than a BAC of 0.35 percent can result in coma and death. Once a person reaches this level, their body functions slow down due to the sedative effects of alcohol. They can lose consciousness, their heart can stop, or they can stop breathing. They could also experience seizures due to insufficient oxygen reaching the brain.
How Long Does Alcohol Poisoning Last?
It takes the body about an hour to metabolize 0.02 percent BAC. So, if a person has a BAC of 0.30 percent, it would take approximately 15 hours before all the alcohol was out of their system. However, it could take even longer depending on their hydration level, what food they have eaten, their weight, what they were drinking, and whether they used any drugs.
Alcohol Poisoning Signs and Symptoms
It is important to know the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning and what to do when you suspect someone you care about has drunk excessively. The typical signs and symptoms to look for include the following:
- Cold, clammy skin
- Problems remaining conscious
- Slowed or difficult breathing
- Blue-tinged lips, fingers, or skin
- Loss of consciousness
- Problems speaking, standing, walking
- Lowered inhibitions
- Increased risk-taking
- Impaired judgment and reasoning
However, some people will remain conscious and experience a blackout. During this time, they can exhibit the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning but not be aware of them. In addition, the person may insist on wanting to continue to drink.
If you notice a friend or family member appears to have alcohol poisoning, you should call 911 and request immediate medical assistance. While you wait for the ambulance to arrive, there are several things you can do to help, such as:
- If they are awake, try to keep them awake in a sitting position and have them sip on water.
- If they are unconscious, ensure they are lying on their side with their face forward in case they start vomiting so they do not choke.
- Do not leave them alone or unsupervised until the paramedics arrive.
- When the paramedics arrive, let them know what alcohol they consumed and if they used any drugs.
The Dangers of Alcohol Poisoning and Sobering Myths
There are many myths about how someone can sober up. However, many of these can actually cause more harm when a person has alcohol poisoning. For example, drinking coffee will cause further dehydration due to caffeine and could cause them to have a seizure. Likewise, a cold shower does not work because it further lowers the person’s body temperature and could cause hypothermia.
How to Address Alcohol Poisoning
After someone has had alcohol poisoning, it should be a wake-up call to examine one’s drinking habits seriously. In some cases, this could be the event that causes them to seek addiction treatment. Even in cases where someone does not have AUD, they should still seek help for their excessive drinking problem.
Binge and Excessive Drinking Treatment in Murfreesboro, TN
At Tulip Hill in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, we understand it can be hard to admit you have a binge drinking or excessive drinking problem. By taking that first step, you have already overcome a major obstacle and are on your way to getting the help you need. To learn more about our treatment problems or to begin treatment, contact us today.