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"One is Too Many, and a Thousand is Never Enough"

A recurring statement in alcoholics and narcotics anonymous "one is too many, and a thousand is never enough." The idea is thought-provoking. Imagine you've lost control of your ability to stop yourself from an activity that is potentially dangerous to your wellbeing.

The fact that someone recognized that "one is too, and a thousand is never enough" just confirms the possibility of overindulgence. It's no secret alcohol is consumed to celebrate an achievement, socialize, out to dinner, and cheer on your favorite team. Yet, you are encouraged to be cautious about the substance. Seems like a buzzkill, but your health is essential.

There is the possibility of consuming too much alcohol. However, you don't have to be an alcoholic to suffer the consequences of alcohol poisoning. Since there are probably few social occasions where alcohol isn't part of the refreshments. There are also creative ways to mix alcohol that may enhance the flavor. Consequently, you consume more than you probably intended.

Sometimes there are unintended consequences associated with alcohol. For example, we hear the heartbreaking stories of hazing on college campuses involving alcohol. It becomes hard not to worry about your child or loved one; consuming this social beverage that relieves your social anxiety and the stress of socializing with strangers.

Alcohol overdose/poisoning is a severe problem that may cause the loss of life. The national institute on alcohol abuse (NIAAA) and alcoholism provide guidance on alcohol overdose. According to the NIAAA, "an alcohol overdose occurs when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life support functions—such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control—begin to shut down."

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning:

  • Bluish skin

  • Slow breathing

  • decrease in blood pressure

  • Vomiting

  • Low body temperature (Hypothermia)

  • Irregular breathing

  • Severe Confusion

  • Seizures

  • Clammy skin

  • Impaired gag reflex to prevent choking if the person is vomiting

Causes of Alcohol Poisoning

The risk of alcohol overdose increases during binge drinking. Binge drinking affects males and females differently. Binge drinking is when the former consumes 5 or more alcoholic beverages in under two hours. The latter consumes 4 or more alcoholic drinks in under two hours. Binge drinking is a risk factor for alcohol poisoning because it rapidly increases the drinker's blood alcohol concentration (BAC). A person's BAC may continue to rise up to 30 minutes after they stop drinking.

Other risk factors include drinking rubbing alcohol, ethylene glycol, and cleaning products that contain alcohol. Also, combining alcoholic beverages with certain types of medications (opioids, sedative-hypnotic sleep aids) to intensify the effect of the drink. Finally, binge drinking on an empty stomach increases the risk of alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol poisoning/overdose requires immediate medical attention. Ill-advisedly, there is a misconception that cold showers, hot coffee, or walking it off reverse the effects of an alcohol overdose. If you suspect alcohol poisoning prioritize medical care, so appropriate treatment is administered. Should the person begin vomiting, have the person lean forward to prevent choking. Do not lay the person on their back to prevent choking. If the person is unconscious, roll them on their side, so they don't choke on their vomit.

Please note a hangover and alcohol poisoning is not the same thing. A hangover is an unpleasant after-effect of consuming too much alcohol but not to the level of poisoning. Hangovers are associated with dizzy spells, dehydration from excessive urination, expansion of the blood vessels causing headache, soreness of your stomach lining, decrease in your blood sugar, muscle aches, reduction in appetite associated with nausea, and feeling thirsty. Above are just some of the discomfort linked to a hangover. Additionally, hangovers can be addressed with proper hydration, sleep, drinking hot caffeinated beverages, and eating carbs to increase your blood sugar and provide energy.

It is difficult to assess how much alcohol a person consumed because it's self-reported. Regrettably, people also tend to underestimate or under-report the amount of alcohol they consume. So it's crucial to know the symptoms of alcohol poisoning versus a hangover. Unfortunately, sometimes you won't know what the person ingested until a toxicology report is completed. So be honest about what you know and not worry about getting in trouble.

N. B. The contents of this blog post are not prescriptive. The intent is to share information.

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