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When to Worry About Alcohol Poisoning

There’s a fine line between getting drunk and actual alcohol poisoning, which is potentially tragic and life-threatening. How can you tell if you have alcohol poisoning, and what can you do about it?

By
Sanaz Majd, MD,
August 18, 2016
Episode #220

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There is nothing like the absolute freedom of leaving the shackles of home life and entering the stage of independent college life. It’s a milestone of sorts, a rite of passage if you will. We all experience it to some degree at some point or another, whether we are college-bound or not.

By all means, claim your independence. We need a strong future generation. However, achieve it safely and in good health.

Before you head for college, you should be well-informed and aware of a very common college medical condition: alcohol poisoning. 

What Is Alcohol Poisoning?

The medical term for alcohol poisoning is “ethanol intoxication.” How do you know if you are intoxicated versus simply drunk? Both can occur when you drink too much alcohol in a short amount of time.  But intoxication is a much more serious condition. Patients who have true alcohol poisoning can die. Patients often end up in the Emergency Room because they are so ill.

Here are some potential signs and symptoms that you or your college buddy may be suffering from alcohol poisoning:

·         Confusion

·         Incoherent speech

·         Slurred speech

·         Lack of coordination

·         Diminished focus and attention

·         Diminished motor skills (hence, why police officers ask you to walk on a straight line when assessing for alcohol intake)

·         Mood changes

·         Impaired judgment

·         Nausea and vomiting

·         Breathing that is slowed down

I mentioned that it can be life-threatening and that patients risk even death with intoxication. How does that happen exactly? 

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