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How Long Does Alcohol Poisoning Last & What is its Treatment?

About Alcohol Poisoning:

Alcohol poisoning is recognized as a severe and most of the times deadly result of drinking too much of alcohol in a brief period of time. A person suffers from alcohol poisoning if he has drunk too much alcohol very fast and that alcohol has affected his heart rate, breathing, gag reflex, and body temperature. This condition can become too serious wherein alcohol poisoning can lead to coma as well as death. The Polish study performed between 2007 and 2012 involving 10,936 patients suggests number of alcohol poisoning has increased between 2007 and 2012 in Poland.1 Similar, outcome is predicted in USA and other countries.

There are other chances of alcohol poisoning too when the children or the adults by chance or deliberately drink household foods that comprise alcohol. The symptoms of alcohol poisoning differ from individual to individual, and a person suffering from acute alcohol poisoning requires instant medical attention.

How Long Does Alcohol Poisoning Last?

How Long Does Alcohol Poisoning Last?

If the victim gets adequate supportive care, then the impacts of alcohol poisoning can wear off in couple of hours depending on rate of metabolism of alcohol by healthy liver. However, in serious cases of alcohol poisoning secondary to excessive consumption of alcohol, enduring internal damage can continue to remain. Again, the danger of a coma or death is always there with alcohol poisoning and they can happen just anytime though the fatal effect depends on how fast the alcohol is absorbed into blood from stomach and intestine.

The problem of alcohol poisoning is commonly linked with binge drinking. Here too the meaning of binge differs from person to person and it also differs based on a person’s height, weight, and gender. The most important part is, to avert binge drinking practices you must educate yourself properly on many “do’s” and “don’ts” and you should help your friend, sometimes even a stranger who is suffering from alcohol poisoning.

How to Identify Alcohol Poisoning?

There isn’t any minimum amount of alcohol that one has to drink to suffer from alcohol poisoning. As you are aware that alcohol is characteristically poisonous so a person suffering from grave alcohol poisoning is in no condition to help himself. The probable signs of alcohol poisoning are:

  • Vomiting
  • Stumbling
  • Stupor or confusion
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures
  • Low body temperature, also known as Hypothermia
  • Pale or blue-tinged skin
  • Confusion
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slow or irregular breathing.

What is the Treatment for Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning is identified as an important medical condition which needs instant treatment. If you discover such a person you must call an ambulance instantly and before the arrival of the ambulance you must do some things that are mentioned below:

  • Try keeping the person awake.
  • Try to make him sit instead of lying down. However, if the victim lies down, turn his head to one side.
  • If the person can drink water, offer him.
  • If the person happens to be unconscious, leave him in a recovery position and also check whether he is breathing.
  • Never offer him coffee or caffeine which can worsen the condition of dehydration.
  • Do not make the person suffering from alcohol poisoning lie on his back.
  • Never offer him more alcohol for drinking.
  • Do not force the person to walk.

When the person is taken to a hospital, based on his blood alcohol content level and the seriousness of the signs, the hospital authorities might monitor him until his alcohol levels drop gradually. Depending on the severity of the signs, there are some other treatments for Alcohol poisoning that include:

  • Patient is observed in ER or ICU depending on level of consciousness and difficulties of breathing.
  • Unconscious patient if breathing normally then he is observed with nasal oxygen supply by nasal cannula. Most patients are unconscious and often not breathing normal. In such cases a endotracheal tube is passed from mouth into windpipe (trachea). The breathing machine is connected to endotracheal tube to assist breathing.
  • Most patient are given intravenous fluid for rehydrated since most patient are dehydrated because of persistent vomiting. An intravenous drip is also employed to manage blood glucose, hydration and the levels of the vitamin.
  • Sometimes, a small tube is passed into urinary bladder in unconscious patient suffering from urinary retention or incontinence.
  • Long rubber tube is passed through mouth into stomach in almost all cases to remove residual alcohol accumulated in stomach. The residual alcohol from patient’s stomach is sucked out by negative pressure suction machine and also irrigated (washed out) with normal saline.
  • On some instances, when the patient suffering from alcohol poisoning happens to be a child and he has unintentionally drunk isopropyl or methanol alcohol and has got alcohol poisoning then he needs dialysis for speeding up the process of removing toxins from his system.


Alcohol isn’t a simple commodity. Though it carries with it implications of sociability and pleasure yet it fetches destructive results that are widespread and diverse. From the point of global perspective, for lessening the harm done by alcohol there must be policies for handling particular situations in various societies. The study involving 945 hospital emergency (ER) admission involving acute and chronic alcohol consumption suggests ER admission were increased between 2006 and 2014.2

Reports prove that alcohol took many lives particularly in developing nations and the burden of alcohol poisoning is expected to elevate in the future. For controlling this problem, national monitoring systems are required to be introduced that could keep a track of consumption of alcohol and its results for raising awareness among the policy makers and the public. Both public and government organizations should encourage debate plus formulate effectual public health policies to combat this grave problem.

Also Read:


  1. Acute alcohol poisonings among patients in Toxicology Unit, Nofer Institute of Occupational Medicine in the period of time 2007-2012].
    Przegl Lek. 2014;71(9):479-83. [Article in Polish], Rogaczewska A, Kobza-Sindlewska K, Krakowiak A, Piekarska-Wijatkowska A.

  2. Trends in Alcohol-Related Emergency Department Visits in the United States: Results from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample, 2006 to 2014.
    Alcohol Clin Exp Res. 2018 Feb;42(2):352-359., White AM1, Slater ME2, Ng G3, Hingson R3, Breslow R3.

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:August 29, 2018

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