Alcohol Poisoning

What Happens to Your Body When You Get Alcohol Poisoning?


Alcohol is a depressant. It depresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing and the gag reflex which prevents choking. A fatal dose of alcohol stops these functions.

Alcohol, when consumed excessively, will irritate the stomach causing vomiting. There is a danger of choking on vomit. An unconscious person can aspirate vomit, which can cause death by asphyxiation.

A person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise 30 to 90 minutes after a person has stopped drinking.

Critical Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

  • mental confusion, stupor, coma, or the person cannot be roused
  • vomiting
  • seizures
  • slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute)
  • irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness

Care for a Person with Alcohol Poisoning

  • Assess the situation knowing the critical signs listed above.
  • Do not leave the person unattended.
  • Place the intoxicated person on their side.
  • Do not try to sober the person up by giving the person food, coffee, or a cold shower, or by trying to get the person to move around.
  • Do not wait for all symptoms to be present before calling for help.
  • Be aware that a person who has passed out may not just sleep it off. There is a serious risk that: 
    • The person could choke on his/her own vomit.
    • Breathing could become slow, irregular or stop.
    • Heartbeats could become irregular or stop.
    • The person could suffer from hypothermia (low body temperature).
    • The person could become hypoglycemic (too little blood sugar), which can lead to seizures.
    • Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting can also cause seizures, as well as permanent brain damage or death. 


Remember: Time can be a factor in saving a person’s life. When in doubt about a person’s safety call Public Safety at ext. 2222, or 911 for immediate assistance. Don’t hesitate to ask for help. If you are feeling concerned, chances are good you should be concerned.