Substance Abuse

Information About Alcohol Poisoning

Types of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is most often caused by ethyl alcohol (ethanol), which is the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages. Binge drinking is the most common cause of alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning can also be caused by ingesting isopropyl alcohol (isopropanol) or methyl alcohol (methanol). Isopropanol is found in lotions, some hand-sanitizer gels, rubbing alcohol, and antifreeze. Methanol is found in antifreeze, windshield washer fluid, solvents, paints, and varnishes.

Isopropyl Effects

Isopropyl alcohol has a greater effect on the central nervous system then ethyl alcohol. Isopropyl irritates the GI tract. The symptoms of alcohol poisoning are vomiting, confusion, slow breathing (less than eight breaths per minute), seizures, low body temperature, pale or blueish skin and unconsciousness. All of these symptoms will not necessarily be present in every case of alcohol poisoning. In cases of isopropyl ingestion, because of its strong effect on the central nervous system, a person may experience lethargy or ataxia, or may go into a coma. Because isopropyl also affects the GI tract, a person who has drunk it can have stomach pain, cramps and hemorrhagic gastritis. Someone who has ingested rubbing alcohol will also have a fruity smell to his or her breath.

Medical Attention

Treatment for alcohol poisoning is best given at a hospital for all types of alcohol ingestion, while the body rids itself of the alcohol. Careful monitoring is a must to make sure the person is breathing okay and if the person is unconscious choking on their vomit is a possibility. Additionally, they can also inhale vomit into their lungs, which can be fatal.

In addition, supportive treatment for alcohol poisoning usually includes IV fluids. This is to prevent or treat dehydration that may result from vomiting, and it also replaces electrolytes. In some cases, a person’s stomach may be pumped to remove any alcohol left in the stomach. However, by the time alcohol poisoning occurs, there is often little or no alcohol left in the stomach; it has already all entered the blood stream.

In the case of ingestion of methanol or isopropanol, kidney dialysis is often needed. This helps to eliminate the alcohol from the blood stream faster.

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