Alcoholic beverages typically contain three to forty percent of alcohol. Also known as ethyl alcohol or ethanol, it is ranked the next best industrial solvent to water and used in various liquid drug preparations. Alcohol is consumed as a recreational drink across the world in the form of spirits, beers, and wines. Continuous and excessive consumption of alcohol can result in severe implications on an individual’s health irrespective of their age and sex. The ill effects are more pronounced in those with chronic illnesses such as Cancer, Hepatitis and liver cirrhosis. In such cases where the amount of alcohol consumed far exceeds the rate at which the body can metabolize it the Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) reaches toxic levels and the condition is known as Alcohol Poisoning, which can prove to be fatal if left untreated.
A healthy human body can metabolize about 28 grams of alcohol in 90 minutes. The rate tends to be lower in obese individuals and more so in those having a medical history of chronic diseases. Alcohol metabolism is also affected by factors such as gender and body weight. For instance, women tend to absorb alcohol slower than their male counterparts as they tend to accumulate more body fat. Further, alcohol is metabolized quickly on an empty stomach while consuming alcohol during meals tends to delay the absorption process. The body rids itself of alcohol to a small extent through sweat and urination, and to a major extent by metabolizing it in the liver. The capacity of the liver to metabolize alcohol is limited and exceeding normal drinking limits leads to its accumulation in the blood, a condition known as alcohol poisoning, characterized by the following symptoms:
- Hypoxia: Blood transports oxygen to body organs; increased BAC leads to insufficient oxygen supply to the brain and other organs leading to respiratory troubles. The brain requires more oxygen than the rest of the body but due to hypoxia functioning of the brain is affected leading to lack of coordination and unpredictable behavior.
- Nausea: Uncontrolled nausea (that could lead to choking) is the body’s involuntary response to expel excess alcohol, and is a symptom of alcohol poisoning
- Seizures: Increase in BAC leads to dehydration and low blood sugar levels, a condition known as hypoglycemia, which further leads to low blood pressure and unconsciousness
- In addition to the above, symptoms of alcohol poisoning include impairment of sensory functions, indistinct speech and difficulty in walking or even standing still, among others.
In severe cases where the BAC detected is abnormally high, Alcohol poisoning can lead to coma and eventually death. Apart from this, impairment in sensory functions can cause death due to injury and accidents. Immediate care is advisable for those identified with Alcohol poisoning, some of the steps to bring the patient’s condition to normal include:
- Administering intravenous fluids for rehydration and stabilize blood sugar levels
- Providing Oxygen therapy for adequate oxygen supply to aid normal breathing
- Antiemetic drugs to be administered in case of nausea
Implications of alcohol poisoning are far reaching, and it is important to stick to standard drink sizes to avoid the same and not having to give up drinking all together.