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Alcohol Emergency: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Risk factors, Prevention

Alcohol is a major cause of disease as well as injury worldwide.(1) However, consuming too much of alcohol in a quick time can result in a very fatal condition known as alcohol emergency. Alcohol emergency is quite a serious problem and at times it can also be seriously deadly. This is the condition that generally occurs because of consuming excess of alcohol in a short time period.

Alcohol Emergency: Causes, Symptoms, Complications, Risk factors, Prevention

What is Alcohol Emergency?

Drinking excess of alcohol in a quick period of time can actually cause a deadly condition known as alcohol emergency. It is also known as alcohol poisoning. This can affect the breathing, body temperature, heart rate, and also lead to coma or even death.

It is important to note that a person suffering from alcohol emergency requires immediate medical attention. In case you suspect anyone with this condition, you need to call 911 immediately.

Symptoms Of Alcohol Emergency

Some of the symptoms of alcohol emergency include vomiting, confusion, slow breathing rate, seizures, irregular breathing or a gap of more than 10 seconds between each breath, Hypothermia or low body temperature, blue-tinged or pale skin, unconsciousness and unable to become awake.

Symptoms Of Alcohol Emergency When You Need To See A Doctor:

It is true that alcohol emergency is a serious condition and some of the symptoms of this condition make one aware that there is an emergency to see a doctor in case of alcohol emergency. Below are list of some of these symptoms:

  • If the victim is not alert or if there is an inability of rousing the victim with vigorous shaking or with loud noise, or if the person vomits while being unconscious.
  • If there is hypothermia, which is defined by a body temperature that is lower than 35 degrees C or 95 degrees F.(2) Hypothermia is a real medical emergency and it requires immediate treatment.
  • In case there is a slow or irregular heartbeat, weak pulse, or very slow or rapid pulse.
  • If the color of the skin or lips becomes bluish, if the skin feels clammy and cold when touched.

Causes Of Alcohol Emergency:

Binge Drinking:

  • One of the primary cause of alcohol emergency is binge drinking which is actually the pattern of heavy drinking when a person consumes 5 or more alcoholic drinks in 2 hours( in case of male) or drinks at least 4 drinks in 2 hours (in case of females).
  • Binge drinking is a common type of abuse pattern that contributes to a substantial portion of deaths which are related to alcohol consumption.(3)
  • It must be noted that unlike our food, which takes hours to digest, alcohol is a substance that absorbs very quickly in the body. It even takes a longer time for the body to get rid of the consumed alcohol. The more alcohol one drinks, especially in a short time period, the greater is the risk of suffering from alcohol emergency.

Consuming Products Containing Alcohol:

At times, alcohol emergency may also occur in case of children or adults when they drink accidently or intentionally any household products containing alcohol.

Risk Factors Linked To Alcohol Emergency:

There are a lot of risk factors which are linked to alcohol emergency. Some of them include overall health of the person, size and weight of the victim, if alcohol is consumed along with other drugs, if the person has recently eaten, the alcohol percentage in your drinks, the tolerance level of the person’s body, the rate as well as the amount of alcohol that has been consumed, the alcohol percentage in the drinks.

Complications Related To Alcohol Emergency:

There might be severe complications resulting from alcohol emergency. Below are some of them.

  • Choking may be one of the serious complications of alcohol emergency.
  • The breathing may be stopped. Accidentally you might inhale vomit into the lungs and this can be dangerous or even fatal condition of asphyxiation.
  • There may be severe dehydration due to alcohol emergency which occurs due to excessive vomiting. This dehydration can severely lower the blood pressure and also fasten your heart rate.
  • With alcohol emergency you might get seizures because of a drop in the level of blood sugar.
  • Irregular heartbeat can be a serious complication of alcohol emergency.
  • Alcohol emergency can also cause irreversible damage of the brain.
  • The most severe complication of alcohol emergency is that it can result in death.

Strict Points To Follow In Case Of An Alcohol Emergency:

Alcohol overdose leading to alcohol emergency can be really dangerous and if it is left untreated, it can lead to very serious conditions and also may kill the person. So, it is very much important for you to note down some of the strict points that must be followed in case of an alcohol emergency. Read below to know about them.

What To Do In Case Of Alcohol Emergency?

  • Call 911 on an immediate basis if you notice the signs or symptoms of alcohol emergency.
  • Do remain with the affected person until medical help arrives and turn the victim on a recovery position or to their side, which would prevent choking when the person vomits.
  • Make sure to keep the person awake and do not just allow them sleep.
  • Cooperate with the medical personnel and remain prepared for offering the emergency medical personnel information as much as you can, including any medication or drugs taken by the person.

What Not To Do In Case Of Alcohol Emergency?

  • Do not allow the person to sleep.
  • Do not let the person lie on their back.
  • Do not give the person caffeine to drink. It is better not to give anything to drink or eat.
  • Do not put cold water on the person who is affected by alcohol emergency.
  • Do not assume that somebody else will take care of the victim; right away take the action.
  • Do not hesitate in calling 911.
  • Do not allow the person to be alone.
  • Do not put a backpack on the victim as this can choke on when they vomit.

NOTE: Call 911 in case of emergency.

The Recommended Recovery Position For Alcohol Emergency:

  • You can help your friend, or any known or unknown person who is affected by alcohol emergency and requires help, by putting them in an appropriate recovery position until the emergency medical help reaches them.
  • First of all make sure to check that they are breathing. This can be done by slightly lifting up their chin for clearing their airway. In case they are not breathing, call emergency help on an immediate basis. In case they are breathing, then follow the below mentioned steps to put them in the recovery position.
  • Bend the person’s arm that is closest to you in a right angle form making sure their palm is facing up. This is to be done for keeping them from rolling on to the stomach.
    Next, get the back of their hand that is far from you to their cheek that is at the closest distance from you. This helps to keep their airway quite clear and also stop them from rolling very far.
  • Bring the leg that is further from you up to a bent posture and then roll the person on their side towards you.
  • In order to ensure that the victim’s airway remains clear, tilt up their chin and bend the legs to a right angle for having better support on the position.
  • Call for medical help

Prevention Of Alcohol Emergency:

Below are some of the ways you can prevent alcohol emergency.

  • Consume alcohol only in moderation, if you like to drink. It means, only 1 drink in a day for women and men older than 65 years and up to 2 drinks for those below 65 years or younger. Moreover it is essential for you to drink slowly.
  • Keep a note not to drink alcohol on an empty stomach. It might slow down the absorption of alcohol if you have some food in the stomach. However, it must be mentioned that this will not prevent alcohol emergency, especially if you are binge drinking.
  • Store household products containing alcohol, including mouthwashes, cosmetics, and medications, out of reach of your parents and also keep your drinks away from their reach.
  • Make sure you communicate with your teenagers properly and let them known about dangers or side effects of alcohol, and binge drinking.


With all the above description we are now very much aware of the condition of alcohol emergency, including the symptoms, causes, complications as well as ways to prevent it. In case you or any of your known ones is experiencing an alcohol emergency, you definitely need to call 911 or see you doctor on an immediate basis. It is very much essential for getting the appropriate help in the right time and to prevent the condition from getting more serious.


Also Read:

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 16, 2024

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