Alcohol Poisoning: Facts and Prevention Tips


Sober Recovery Expert Author

Alcohol poisoning is a preventable death. However, in a January 2015 report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) revealed that about six people in the U.S. continue to die of alcohol poisoning every day.

Alcohol poisoning occurs when a person consumes an exorbitant amount of alcohol, usually over a short period of time, that it raises the drinker’s blood alcohol level (BAC) to toxic levels. According to the CDC, “Very high levels of alcohol in the body can shut down critical areas of the brain that control breathing, heart rate and body temperature, resulting in death.”

Your body views alcohol as a poison and you should do the same.

The number of drinks it takes to shut down the body’s major functioning organs may be lower than what most people think. Binge drinking, which can easily cause alcohol poisoning, involves just as much as five drinks in one sitting for men and four in one sitting for women. This may be why more than 38 million people in the U.S. say they binge drink up to about four times per month, consuming an average of eight drinks per binge, according to the CDC website.

Despite being highly preventable, people’s preconceived notions about drinking contribute to the nation’s staggering cases of alcohol poisoning. The fact of the matter is that the body views alcohol as a poison and tries to fight it to sober you up. In excessive amounts, however, it can easily become a battle your body is unable to fight alone.

The Facts

While some may assume that alcohol poisoning tends to happen to novice drinkers who probably don’t know their limits yet, the CDC’s recent study finds that this is rarely case. According to 2010-2012 data from the National Vital Statistics System, it is alcoholism that plays a major role in this deadly situation. Here are the facts:

  • Alcoholism is a contributing factor in 30 percent of reported alcohol poisoning cases.
  • Other drugs are a factor in about 3 percent of deaths.
  • Alcohol poisoning kills more than 2,200 Americans annually.
  • Non-Hispanic white males accounts for the majority of alcohol poisoning deaths.

At the same time, contrary to popular belief, the Journal of the American Medical Association reports that although younger college-aged students commonly binge drink, 70 percent of alcohol poisoning episodes actually involve adults in their late 20s and older.

Toxic and excessive alcohol consumption doesn’t just pose life-threatening jeopardy to those who overdrink. Binge drinkers are also 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers. To think, numerous lives can be saved from alcohol-related car accidents if only drunk driving was eliminated. It comes as no surprise then that the best method to reducing alcohol poisoning mortality rate is prevention.


If you or someone you know decides to imbibe and consumes an excessive amount of alcohol, the following recommendations may help decrease the chances of alcohol poisoning.

Drink water.
Make every other drink a glass of water. It may not dilute the alcohol in your system, but it will slow you down from consuming the alcohol.

Set limits.
Consciously limit the number of drinks prior to consumption. If you have a tendency to overindulge, let your friends know what your set limit is and listen to them when they tell you to stop drinking. Since many people become irrational with excess alcohol in their system, you will have to determine a method to conform to their demands to stop so that your drinking doesn’t turn lethal.

Stay active.
Whether you are at home, with friends or at a bar, don’t just sit and knock back your alcohol. Moving around can not only distract you from taking another shot, but can also help keep you and others around you aware of how the alcohol is affecting your body.

By consuming food prior to drinking and in between sips, your body’s alcohol absorption will be slightly slowed down. At the same time, eating can also serve as a diversion to filling up your glass again.

Do not mix your spirits.
Mixing various alcoholic drinks, like wine with shots of tequila, for example, can amplify the negative effects of alcohol.

Pick carefully.
Choose beverages with lower alcohol content and make sure you keep track of your consumption. In the U.S., a standard drink is any drink that contains 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol, which breaks down as the following:

12 oz of regular beer (about 5% alcohol)
5 oz of red wine (about 12%)
1.5 oz of vodka (about 40%)

Remember, your best chance for avoiding alcohol poisoning is abstinence but if this isn’t possible, exercise caution and monitor the alcohol consumption of you or your friends. After all, your life and the lives of those around you may depend on it.

If you or someone you know is seeking help with alcohol addiction, please visit our directory of treatment centers or call 866-606-0182 to start the path to recovery today.

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