Though many of us have likely had the experience of drinking too much, fewer of us know the actual signs of alcohol poisoning. Although alcohol is essentially a legal drug for those who are of age, the fact remains that drinking too much in a given time period can result in serious negative health effects.
When we drink alcohol, our bodies absorb it through our stomach and lower intestine, where it begins to enter the bloodstream. Our Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is a way to measure intoxication, a number that goes up or down depending on how much we drink and how long we wait. Simply put, the higher the number, the greater the risk of alcohol poisoning.
At lower BAC levels of .02 to .04, we might feel relaxed or calm. At .08 it becomes illegal to operate a motor vehicle. Above a .1 and things begin to get risky—at .2, many people blackout. At .3 or .4, individuals are susceptible to lose consciousness or even die. For anyone who fears they or a loved one may have alcohol poisoning, the Mayo Clinic lists a number of signs to watch out for:
-Confusion or disorientation
-Breathing that slows to eight or fewer breaths per minute
-Blue-tinged or pale skin
-Lowered body temperature (otherwise known as hypothermia)
-Loss of consciousness
Those who lose consciousness as a result of drinking should seek medical treatment immediately, as more serious consequences such as coma or death may result otherwise. Still, to avoid the possibility of alcohol poisoning, it’s helpful to examine one’s drinking habits for problematic behavior.
For anyone concerned about the prospect of alcohol poisoning, a preventative and proactive approach can be helpful. One question worth asking is: how many drinks do I consume in a given week? Although it’s not uncommon for someone to have a glass of wine with dinner or a beer after a particularly hard day, a daily ritual of it can be a slippery slope.
While media depictions of alcohol dependence and addiction may conjure up images of extreme binge drinking, the truth is that alcohol can become a problem much earlier than we may think. According to the Washington Post, those who drink on average one glass of wine a night are already in the top 30% of American drinkers—adding another glass puts them in the top 20%.
When considering our relationship with alcohol, it’s important to note that drinking alcohol is an inherently risky behavior. For those who choose to drink, using strategies to lower that risk is of major importance. According to the National Institute of Health, “low-risk” drinking is defined as no more than four drinks a day for a man and no more than three drinks a day for a woman. Similarly, men are told to stick to fewer than 14 drinks a week while women should stick to fewer than seven. Those who are heavy drinkers could find themselves going beyond these limits in an evening—this is where things get dangerous.\
Whatever the circumstances, there are many different factors which lead people to drinking. Sometimes, our social environment encourages us to imbibe to feel like we’re part of the group. Others may increase their alcohol consumption to cope with family or work stressors. Finally, those with impulsive personalities may also be more inclined to reach for the bottle.
Western culture often emphasizes drinking as a glamorous and social activity, one associated with attractive and successful people. Moreover, alcohol companies reinforce these images in their advertisements and end up targeting those who may already be drinking too much. Many people who are hesitant to label themselves alcoholics may still consider themselves problem drinkers. Fortunately, there are individualized programs offered at a lot of premiere treatment facilities, like Cliffside Malibu, for example, that cater to each client, no matter the specifics of their situation.
Although problematic drinking happens in a number of ways, excessive alcohol consumption often begins to have an effect on our general sense of wellbeing before we even think about seeking help. One major way drinking may become a problem is when it negatively impacts our jobs.
Have you ever found yourself hazy or unfocused after a night of heavy drinking? Maybe you stayed up later than you planned or even needed an “eye-opener” or morning drink to get work-ready again? Have you ever had a workplace accident as a result of drinking? Have you ever had to fake sickness and call in sick because you were too hung over to go to work?
For many professionals, chronic heavy drinking may not seem as serious if their work life can remain the same. Once their productivity begins to slip, they may become more willing to admit that there is an issue. If not, they may also move on to stronger drugs or pharmaceuticals to make sure they remain productive and cover the fact that they have a problem. Ideally, these issues can be caught before they escalate to full-blown addiction for those who act early.
If you answered yes to several of the above questions, you may be developing a problem with alcohol. Though casual drinkers may also have the occasional night that gets out of control, only you can truly decide whether the behavior in question is unusual or if it fits into a larger pattern of risky behavior. For those who aren’t entirely convinced, bad drinking habits also have a way of sneaking into other parts of our lives as well.
For those who are on the fence, there’s another important question to ask: has alcohol negatively impacted your health? Though health and wellness is a broad category to consider, the most specific thing to look at is physical health. Do you ever wake up with “the shakes?” Have you noticed more intense bouts of anxiety or depression? Do you feel foggy or forgetful? Have you sustained any physical injuries while due to drinking?
While the above are only short-term issues, the CDC reports that problems like these can intensify if left unchecked. More serious health issues caused by heavy drinking may include high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, cancer, dementia, digestive issues, alcoholism, coma and even death.
Still, health is not limited only to physical issues but also to other aspects of your life, like, relationships, for example. Have you noticed any recurring issues with your romantic partners or significant other? If you’re a parent, has there been any tension between you and your children? Do you have a balanced and fulfilling social life? Do you have a healthy sex life or are you prone to risky and impulsive behaviors?
While the answers to the above questions may not be directly related to your alcohol consumption, studies have shown that excessive drinking can negatively affect a variety of our social behaviors as well as our actual health. Perhaps most important to consider in all the above is that all of these problems are avoidable. Without having to resort to labels like “alcoholic” or “addict,” the first step to recovery is the desire to find a better way of life. For those who feel their life has become unmanageable with their current drinking habits, all that remains is to ask for help.
After considering all of the above, you maybe feel you’re ready to make a change and to stop drinking. If so, the intake coordinators at treatment centers across the country are ready and willing to take your call. Unlike many treatment programs, which treat all clients the same or adhere to only one recovery philosophy, holistic and evidence-based treatment, like what’s offered at the aforementioned Cliffside Malibu, draw on a wide variety of influences and techniques. Working together, a treatment team can help you become the person you want to be.
The hardest thing about quitting drinking is admitting that there is a problem and becoming willing to make a change. In many cases, alcoholism or addiction is not the only problem fueling the behaviors that hold individuals back. Childhood trauma, related mental illness or other health problems can often feed into addiction making full recovery a challenge. Fortunately, there are resources that can provide dual diagnosis support for a wide range of issues to help you or your loved ones get to the root of those problems.
For those with serious alcohol dependency, coming off alcohol may require medical detox services before the therapeutic aspect of treatment can begin. Due to the stereotypical images conjured when one hears the word “addiction,” many people have the impression that detox will be painful, difficult or dangerous. Fortunately, these are only misinformed assumptions that do not apply at a high-end facility.
You may be wondering what to expect from an alcohol detox program. One can usually expect to have private rooms with comfortable furnishings, personal psychotherapists and medical oversight to ensure a safe and stable transition into sobriety. Because alcohol is a depressant, it can have serious effects on the central nervous system for those who come off of it without the help of professionals. Trying to quit “cold turkey” or at home could lead to seizures and other serious withdrawal symptoms. With proper medical oversight, clients’ safety and comfort is guaranteed.
Anyone who is ready to quit drinking and may be in need of detox services would do well by picking up the phone and calling a treatment facility as soon as possible. Treatment professionals are standing by, ready to help find a recovery plan that is right for you.