Alcohol poisoning

When someone drinks too much alcohol and becomes confused or cannot speak, they are beyond drunk and could be suffering from alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning is a dangerous and potentially deadly result of drinking too much alcohol or binge drinking. Drinking too much alcohol can affect your breathing, heart rate and body temperature, and could lead to a coma or death. It can also cause permanent brain damage.

When there is heavy or binge drinking, a fun night can soon turn into a dangerous situation. One minute your friend is laughing and having fun, and the next your friend is slurring his or her words, throwing up, losing control and passing out. At this point the person should not be left alone to “sleep it off,” as the result could be deadly.

Signs of alcohol poisoning:

  • confusion or disorientation
  • passing out or drowsiness
  • extreme vomiting
  • vomiting while passed out
  • slow or uneven breathing
  • seizures
  • bluish or pale, cold, clammy skin
  • slowed heart rate
  • low body temperature

If you think someone might have alcohol poisoning, get help right away by calling the health centre/nurse on call, or take them to the health centre.

Tips if someone is very drunk but still able to respond: 

  • Stay with them. Do not leave them alone to sleep it off.
  • Try to keep them awake and sitting up.
  • Give them water, if they can drink it. Do not give them other drinks like coffee, which could dehydrate them and will not sober them up. 
  • Avoid making them throw up. Their gag reflex won’t be working properly and they could choke.
  • Stay with someone who is vomiting to be sure they do not choke or pass out.
  • Keep them warm, bring them inside, use blankets. Alcohol lowers the body temperature which could lead to hypothermia.
  • Check them for bruises, cuts or other injuries. If necessary, take them to the health centre.
  • Do not let them drink any more alcohol.

If they are passed out and cannot be awakened or want to lay down, put them on their side to stop them from choking on their vomit. See the image below:

Need support?

If you are afraid for the safety of someone who drinks too much, this may be a sign of a drinking problem. When the person is feeling better, it might be helpful to sit down and talk to them about getting support.