Saint Louis University

Alcohol Poisoning

Basic Facts

Alcohol Poisoning occurs when  your body is forced to shut down due to the large amount of alcohol in your blood stream.  Alcohol has the effect of slowing down many of the involuntary functions of the body including your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing and gag reflex.   A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually stop these functions.

It is common for someone who drank excessive alcohol to vomit due to the irritation alcohol can be on the stomach. There is then the danger of choking on vomit, which could cause death by asphyxiation.

A person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise even while they are passed out. Alcohol will continue ot enter the bloodstream and circulate through the body even after a person stops drinking. It is dangerous to assume the person will be fine by sleeping it off.

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

  • They have mental confusion, stupor, coma, or cannot be roused.
  • They are vomiting.
  • They are having seizures.
  • They have slow or irregular breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute and/or 10 or more seconds between breaths).
  • They have Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, palor.


What to do if someone has alcohol poisoning

  • Be a friend and know the danger signals.
  • Do not wait for all symptoms to be present, get help.
  • Be aware that a person who has passed out may die.
  • If there is any suspicion of an alcohol overdose, call 911 or DPS for help (977-3000).


Don't try to guess the level of drunkenness.

What can happen?

  • Your friend could chokes on their own own vomit.
  • Your friend's breathing slows, becomes irregular, or stops.
  • Your friend's heart beats becomes irregular or stops.
  • Your friend's body temperature can drop, leading to Hypothermia.
  • Your friend's blood sugar can drop, leading to seizures.
  • If your friend is left untreated, severe dehydration can result causing seizures, permanent brain damage, or death.


Even if the victim lives, an alcohol overdose can lead to irreversible brain damage. Rapid binge drinking (which often happens on a bet or a dare) is especially dangerous because the victim can ingest a fatal dose before becoming unconscious.

Don't be afraid to seek medical help for a friend who has had too much to drink. Don't worry that your friend may become angry or embarrassed-remember, you cared enough to help. Always be safe, not sorry.

Information from the United States Government Research about Alcohol and College Drinking Prevention.

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