Posted on Oct 27, 2011 in Health & safety
I’ve heard the term “alcohol poisoning” before — and I realize (especially after Amy Winehouse’s death) that it’s possible to die from it — but I really don’t know too much other than that. What actually constitutes alcohol poisoning?
That wonderful compound that gives us courage, dampens our inhibitions, and makes us feel all warm and fuzzy in small doses is, unfortunately, a poison. Ethanol, also called ethyl alcohol or abbreviated as EtOH is the compound found in alcoholic drinks that makes us, well, drunk. In sufficient quantities, however, it is actually deadly to us.
Finders Free Legal Team Super Happy Fun Disclaimer: I’m not a doctor, nurse, or any other sort of medical professional. I spent a few years as a NYS EMT-D a while back, I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night, and I’m good at research. Please consult with a doctor or if you have any health or medical questions.
Everyone is a little different, depending on their body size and liver function, but on average it takes a person one hour to metabolize (or remove) the alcohol in one drink. A drink in this case is defined as 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. Quite simply, if you drink alcohol faster than your liver can remove it from your body, that’s when your blood-alcohol level goes up and you start getting drunk. If you really start drinking faster than your body can process the ethanol… that’s when you start getting into trouble.
As you begin to pass a BAC of 0.1% (above the legal maximum for DUI in the US, which is 0.08 in every state) symptoms include central nervous system depression, nausea, vomiting, impaired motor and sensory function, and impaired thinking. Above 0.14%, blood flow to the brain is decreased, above 0.3% stupefaction and unconsciousness follows, possible death above 0.4%, and certain death above 0.55%. (Amy Winehouse, who you mentioned, was reported to have a BAC level of 0.416.)
Vomiting, by the way, is a good sign that you’ve had too much to drink — it’s your body trying to get rid of the alcohol any way it can. If you’ve been drinking, and you feel the need to spew — let it happen.
So how much alcohol does it take to get to that point? Well, according to this BAC calculator, 10 shots of vodka in a one hour period for a 150-pound male will put you right around 0.30%. That may sound like a lot of drinking (and it is), but do keep in mind that’s just 15 ounces of alcohol over a 60 minute period.
If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, seek immediate medical care. If someone is passed out and you can’t rouse them, get medical attention. Don’t assume they’ll just “sleep it off.” If they’re suffering prolonged bouts of vomiting, irregular or slow breathing (less than eight breaths per minute), get medical help immediately. Don’t leave an unconscious person alone — alcohol poisoning inhibits the gag reflex. This means an unconscious person may choke on or aspirate their own vomit.
In short, if a guy is just laughing, talking loudly, making a pass at your girl while singing Journey songs at karaoke, or all of the above, he’s just inebriated. If you find him passed out in a pool of his own vomit in the bathroom, taking a ragged breath every 8-10 seconds, call 911. Even if he did make a pass at your girl.
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