Alcohol Poisoning Affects Every Organ

Whether knowingly consuming alcohol as a coping skill or unknowingly using it to drown your sorrows, alcohol has an affect on almost every vital organ.  80% passes through the small intestine before entering the bloodstream. As Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) continues to rise, you begin to lose control of your cognitive functions and motor skills. Before you go drinking on an empty stomach, consider how alcohol travels through your body. In excess, alcohol poisoning can occur and wreak havoc though out the body.

What is Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning is a serious — and sometimes deadly — consequence of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Drinking too much too quickly can affect your breathing, heart rate, body temperature and gag reflex and potentially lead to a coma and death.

It may be useful to know some basic effects alcohol has on each organ of the body before looking at what alcohol poisoning does and the dangers:

  • Stomach – Drinking causes gastric juices to flow and can eat into the lining of the stomach causing ulcers.
  • Circulatory System – Alcohol causes decreased pulse rate and a decrease in blood pressure.
  • Kidney – Alcohol acts as a diuretic and causes increased urination and hence dehydration.
  • Brain – Once in the brain, alcohol decrease the brains ability to control behavior and bodily functions.
  • Liver – Alcohol is ultimately processed in the liver, at the rate of one drink per hour. Excess drinking can develop fatty liver and inability to breakdown fats.

As consumption of alcohol increases higher and higher levels of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) are realized.  Higher levels lead to alcohol poisoning and even death.

Levels of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC)

Alcohol requires no digestion and is metabolized before many other nutrients. About 20% of the alcohol you drink passes through the stomach wall and can reach the brain within one minute.  The remaining 80% passes through the small intestine before entering the bloodstream.  As alcohol enters the bloodstream, the measurement of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) increases.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) refers to the percent of alcohol (ethyl alcohol or ethanol) in a person’s blood stream.  A BAC of .10% means that an individual’s blood supply contains one part alcohol for every 1000 parts blood.

BAC Level                    Physical & Mental Effects

.01-.03                         No apparent effect.  Slight mood elevation

.04-.06                         Relaxation and warm feelings.  Minor behavior impairments.

.07-.09                         Balance, speech vision and control are impaired.

.10-.15                         Significant to gross impairment of motor control.  Speech will probably be slurred.  Blurred vision and loss of balance.

.16-.20                         Nausea may occur.  Dysphoria or unease is dominant.  Potential for anxiety.  Difficulty walking and mental confusion.

.21-.30                         Severe intoxication:  Likely to have alcohol poisoning!

.30 and above             Loss of consciousness, onset of coma, potential death.

The primary factors determining BAC are the number and time period over which alcoholic drinks are consumed.  However, other factors contribute to BAC levels  such as:  body weight and composition, biological sex, medications and food consumption.

If a person begins suffering from alcohol poisoning here are a few of the signs and symptoms to pay attention to.

Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is very serious and can occur by drinking too much too fast or an excess amount over time.  As stated previously, alcohol can affect almost every part of the body.  Alcohol poisoning can have the following symptoms:

  • Mental confusion
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Convulsions and seizures
  • Extremely slow breathing (under eight breaths a minute)
  • Irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths)
  • Blue-tinged skin or pale skin due to poor circulation
  • Low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Unconsciousness and can’t be awakened

Each of these in isolation can be dangerous, but often they are combined in a session of extreme binge drinking.  It can be noticed how death can be an outcome when multiple symptoms overlap and vital organs are at risk.

What can Habitual Alcohol Poisoning do to your Body?

Simply stated, one occurrence of alcohol poisoning can permanently damage you for life.   But with the disease of alcoholism, an alcoholic may put themselves through this process many times in their life.   Perpetually subjecting themselves to alcohol poisoning can eventually lead to these more severe situations:

  • Choking on vomit
  • Slowed or stopped breathing
  • Cardiac arrhythmia, or irregular heartbeat
  • Stopped heartbeat
  • Hypothermia, or low body temperature
  • Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, which can cause seizures
  • Severe dehydration from vomiting that can lead to seizures, permanent brain damage, and death.
  • Acute pancreatitis
  • Death

If you or someone you love appears to place themselves in harms way, treatment is always a phone call away.  Here are some immediate steps to follow if you notice alcohol poisoning:

What to do if you Notice Alcohol Poisoning

Obviously, the previously mentioned symptoms are life threatening and measures should be taken to help an affected person seek assistance.

  1. Seek immediate medical care. This situation is life threatening and should be treated as such.  Never leave the person alone or isolated and contact medical care.
  2. Research treatment options. Once the person has received acute medical care and is safe, consideration for treatment should be evaluated.  Many treatment options are available at Pinelands Recovery.
  3. Learn methods for detoxification of the body. Certain damage has been done to the liver and kidneys with excess alcohol consumption.  A regimen of healthy juicing and herbal remedies has been shown to help the liver and kidneys cleanse and detoxify.

Conclusion

Whether intentionally going out to binge drink or accidentally getting trapped into an evening of excess, alcohol poisoning can end the fun instantaneously.   All areas of the body can be affected, causing distress and the need for immediate medical care.  A sustainable approach to lifestyle changes and healthy detoxification can heal us; mind body and soul!

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About Micheal Shaldone
Michael Shaldone is founder and lead counselor at Phoenix Wellness Center, LLC in Sacramento, California. Michael is a Certified Alcohol & Drug Counselor (CADC I) as well as a licensed yoga instructor. Michael is passionate about integrating multiple modalities such as mindfulness, nutrition and cognitive behavior therapy into recovery practices. Michael is also a partner in Classy Hippie Tea Company, also located in Sacramento, California.

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