Alcohol Poisoning

What are the signs of alcohol poisoning:

Alcohol poisoning signs and symptoms include:

  • Confusion
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
  • Irregular breathing 
  • Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
  • Low body temperature 
  • Passing out and can't be awakened

It's not necessary to have all these signs and symptoms before you seek help. A person who is unconscious or can't be awakened is at risk of dying.

If a friend shows any of these signs of alcohol poisoning:

It is an emergency

If you're with someone who has been drinking a lot of alcohol and you see any of the signs or symptoms above, this is what you should do:

  • Call 911
  • Be prepared to provide information. If you know, be sure to tell hospital or emergency personnel the kind and amount of alcohol the person drank, and when.
  • Don't leave an unconscious person alone. Because alcohol poisoning affects the way your gag reflex works, someone with alcohol poisoning may choke on his or her own vomit and not be able to breathe. While waiting for help, don't try to make the person vomit because he or she could choke.
  • Help a person who is vomiting. Try to keep him or her sitting up. If the person must lie down, make sure to turn his or her head to the side — this helps prevent choking. Try to keep the person awake to prevent loss of consciousness.

Passing out does not mean "sleeping it off". Blood alcohol content (BAC) can increase even after you stop drinking and/or fall asleep, and alcohol poisoning is still possible.

Don't be afraid to get help

It can be difficult to decide if you think someone is drunk enough to warrant medical attention. You may worry about the consequences for yourself or your friend or loved one, especially if you're underage. But the consequences of not getting the right help in time can be far more serious.

Page last modified June 26, 2017