Treatment for Alcohol Poisoning at Home

Medically Reviewed By Kayla Loibl | Last Edited : April 22, 
2021 
| 7 Sources


If your searching the internet for a treatment for alcohol poisoning at home, and you suspect you or someone you are with is suffering from alcohol poisoning call the emergency services immediately.

Alcohol-poisoning is a life-threatening condition, however it needn't end in tragedy.

The most important stage in treating alcohol poisoning lies not within an emergency room, but in the early identification and recognition of the symptoms of alcohol poisoning, and their prompt treatment. This can only be done by those in the company of the person suffering from alcohol poisoning. To discover how to spot the signs of alcohol poisoning,
read Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms.

Equally important is how fast first-aid can be delivered to the victim.

The need for treatment for alcohol poisoning to be detected early speaks to the importance of not leaving individuals who you suspect drank too much alone. It could be a matter of life and death if they are left alone.

Treatment for Alcohol Poisoning:

According to research just completed in the United States of America, around 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning are reported each year, and one person dies per week because of this deadly but very preventable condition.

One of the major reasons for these fatalities is that the people around the drinker cannot effectively identify the symptoms.

Consequently they did not take any action other than sending the sufferers home in a cab and/or having them take a cold shower and a hot coffee. Most end up feeling responsible and guilt-ridden.

Drunk or Acute Alcohol Poisoning?

While treatments for alcohol poisoning aren’t complicated, many wait too long before they get treatment (for themselves or others) because:

  • they are under-age.
  • they are ashamed of the state they (or others) have got themselves into.
  • they are concerned of legal consequences.

Furthermore, there exists amongst many a stark apathy about the actual symptoms of alcohol poisoning- which may lead to the sufferer and others around him or her to simply assume that he/she’s merely ‘drunk’.

All of which may lead to the sufferer's condition being ignored and thus endangering his/her life.

While the reasons mentioned above may feel important at the moment, it is vital to try and put the situation in perspective. Try to compare the potential consequences of underage drinking and/or the shame you would feel, to the feelings of guilt that would likely come after not getting someone or yourself help.

The truth is that alcohol poisoning does not go away with some rest and water. By waiting, you are not only risking the life of the intoxicated person, but you are also adding the risk of having to sit with guilt about hesitating when seeking treatment.

Think you might have a drinking problem? Take an alcoholism test now.

Effects of Alcohol Poisoning

Excessive alcohol consumption is bad for anyone. Alcohol suppresses nerves that would ordinarily be responsible for your subconscious functions- such as breathing and reminding your heart to beat. Excessive alcohol consumption may stop these functions.

Additionally, alcohol is an irritant to the stomach, and will cause excessive drinkers to vomit- thereby heightening the risk that someone may potentially choke on his/her own vomit even though the person is not conscious, causing death by asphyxiation.

Contrary to popular belief, a person’s blood alcohol concentration will and can continue to rise even when he/she is unconscious.

Alcohol in the stomach and intestines continues to be absorbed into the bloodstream and circulate around the body EVEN WHEN A PERSON STOPS DRINKING.

One should never assume that a person will get sober by sleeping off drunkenness. A potential danger of alcohol overdose is asphyxiating on one’s own vomit.

 Alcohol Poisoning Symptoms

Critical alcohol poisoning symptoms include:

  • Mental confusion, stupor, or coma
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • Hypothermia, a bluish skin color and paleness

 

What happens if alcohol poisoning goes untreated?

  • The victim may choke on his/her own vomit
  • Breathing slows, becomes irregular, or stops completely
  • The heart may beat irregularly or stop
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature) leading to death
  • Hypoglycemia (dangerously low levels of bloody-sugar) leading to seizures
  • Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting can cause seizures, permanent brain damage, and ultimately death

 

What should you do if you suspect someone of alcohol poisoning?

  • Read treatment for alcohol poisoning as a matter of urgency.
  • Acquaint yourself with the above-mentioned alcohol poisoning symptoms
  • Do not wait for all symptoms to be present
  • Be entirely aware that a person who has passed out may die without prompt treatment

What happens if alcohol poisoning goes untreated? 

  • The victim may choke on his/her own vomit
  • Breathing slows, becomes irregular, or stops completely
  • The heart may beat irregularly or stop
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature) leading to death
  • Hypoglycemia (dangerously low levels of bloody-sugar) leading to seizures
  • Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting can cause seizures, permanent brain damage, and ultimately death

How would you know if a friend, relative or just some random person at the bar is merely drunk, or suffering from the effects of alcohol poisoning?

Being able to identify the difference may very well be the difference between life and death.

Death may be caused by someone who may asphyxiate from choking on his or her own vomit, or is not able to breathe because the part of the brain responsible for respiration has been poisoned and is in danger of shutting down.

treatment for alcohol poisoningPhoto by Timon Studler

Embarrassment or Tragedy?

Even if the victim survives, alcohol overdose can lead to irreparable 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. Young adults and teens are particularly at higher risk for binge drinking, which could cause alcohol poisoning.

The temporary embarrassment of having been rescued and treated for alcohol poisoning infinitely outweighs the potential risk of life-threatening complications.


Should you suspect anyone around you of having symptoms consistent of this condition, DO NOT hesitate to call for life-saving help.

Treatment for Alcohol Poisoning
What YOU can do before medical help arrives

Having identified the symptoms of alcohol poisoning, the actual treatment must begin immediately.

  • Any sufferer who persists in falling asleep should be woken immediately at all costs. Use cold water, shake them or, in extreme circumstances subject them to pain stimulus.
  • The victim should, by no means, be sent home and to bed in the assumption that he/she will be able to just ‘sleep it off'. Sending a victim of alcohol poisoning home is akin to sending a heart attack victim home, unsupervised, depriving him/her of life-saving medical treatments which may ultimately result in death.
  • Call for an ambulance immediately should you suspect that someone around you has crossed his/her body’s threshold for alcohol ingestion. Upon the arrival of the ambulance, inform medical personnel of what other drugs (prescription or otherwise) have been ingested by the victim along with alcohol. The volatile cocktail of drink and drugs account for roughly a third of all drug-overdose cases in the United States alone.
  • As effective a means of purging unwanted substances from our bodies as vomiting is, an unconscious person stands a high risk of choking on his/her own vomit due to the incapacitation of his/her bodily functions. To avoid this, turn a victim to lie sideways so as to open the airways and prevent them from getting clogged with vomit.
  • Hypothermia, commonly suffered by alcohol poisoning victims, should be avoided by covering the affected individual with warm blankets or coats.
  • The common perception that a cold shower actually helps to overcome drunkenness and alcohol poisoning is entirely false, given that doing so will heighten the chances of the victim suffering from hypothermia.

Treatment for Alcohol Poisoning:
At the Hospital

Once at the hospital somebody suffering from acute alcohol poisoning may undergo the following procedures:

  • If there has been loss of fluid from excessive vomiting and perspiration, the administration of fluids intravenously can help the body rehydrate and make up for substantial fluid loss.
  • As an additional measure, glucose may be administered as a treatment to regulate the blood-sugar level of the victim and to warm the body.
  • A careful watch will be kept over the breathing patterns of the victim, and keeping him/her awake is also essential in the treatment of alcohol poisoning. This reduces the possibility of the person slipping into a state of coma drastically and pains should always be taken to ensure that the victim, under no circumstances, drifts off into a sleep that he/she may just not wake up from.
  • The individual’s stomach may be pumped to remove any extraneous alcohol that remains unprocessed.
  • In more severe cases, a kidney dialysis is also applied to rid the alcohol from the blood stream.

Acute alcohol poisoning is not just a state of drunkenness, it is a serious condition that can be life-threatening. Knowing the signs of alcohol poisoning and the treatment for alcohol poisoning can literally save lives.

If in doubt as to whether someone is suffering from alcohol poisoning, err on the side of caution and call the emergency services.

Treatment for Alcohol Poisoning:
After the Hospital

After an individual has had a successfully treatment for alcohol poisoning, it is important to take a step back to determine if this was as single occurrence, or if the individual has signs of an alcohol addiction.

If the individual does have some concerns about their drinking, it would be appropriate for them to discuss them with a Medical or Mental Health professional.

There are various levels of care that may be recommended, all of which would depend on the persons history. It doesn’t hurt to be aware of the resources available to you, should you decide to utilize them.


"If your loved one is struggling with alcoholism and you want to speak to someone that understands, call our support assistants. As former addicts they are empathetic to the struggle you are facing. The conversation is free & they are available 24/7."
877-322-2694



Lead Writer/Reviewer : Kayla Loibl

Licensed Medical Health Professional 


Hello!

I am a Mental Health Counselor who is licensed in both New York (LMHC) and North Carolina (LCMHC). I have been working in the Mental Health field since 2015. I have worked in a residential setting, an outpatient program and an inpatient addictions program. I began working in Long Island, NY and then in Guelph, Ontario after moving to Canada. Read More



Treatment for Alcohol Poisoning - Sources:  

Information about Alcohol’s effect on our bodies: Alcohol's Effects on the Body | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (nih.gov)

Information about Alcohol Use Disorder: Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (nih.gov)

Additional information about alcohol poisoning: Alcohol poisoning - Symptoms and causes - Mayo Clinic

Information about the dangers of drinking too much alcohol:  Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) (nih.gov)

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Alcohol Poisoning Deaths. https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/alcohol-poisoning-deaths/index.html

Medline Plus. Blood Alcohol Level. https://medlineplus.gov/lab-tests/blood-alcohol-level/

Treatment for Alcohol Poisoning

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