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Alcohol poisoning: The hard facts
Poisoning caused by binge drinking – drinking excessively within a short period. For men, that’s five standard-sized alcoholic beverages within two hours. For women it’s four or more standard-sized drinks, which is defined as a 12-ounce beer, a 5- ounce glass of wine or a mixed drink with one shot. With excessive drinking, the liver struggles to process the alcohol and motor functions become impaired. If alcohol starts to surround the brain stem, involuntary actions such as breathing can grow difficult. Heart attack, seizure, coma or death can result if left untreated.
Who’s at risk?
While anyone who engages in binge drinking is at risk of alcohol poisoning, some are in more danger than others.
Women are more susceptible because their bodies produce lower levels of enzymes that delay alcohol from being released into the stomach. There are also fewer places alcohol can go in women’s bodies because they have a higher body fat-to-water ratio than men. As a result, alcohol tends to stay clustered around a woman’s brain stem and other vital organs.
Thinner people and those with petite builds are at greater risk because their bodies absorb alcohol more rapidly because of their size.
People using medications and those with health conditions such as heart disease or diabetes are more prone to alcohol poisoning.
Tips for prevention
Pace drinking by consuming no more than one standard-sized drink per hour.
Alternate alcohol intake with nonalcoholic drinks such as water.
Dilute drinks by adding more ice or mixing them more weakly.
Eat something prior to or during drinking to help slow the rate at which the body absorbs alcohol.
Avoid drinking games or downing shots where the pace or rate of drinking can’t be slowed.
Educate friends and family about the dangers of binge drinking.
At home, keep alcohol stored away from teens and children.
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Calls to numbers on a specific treatment center listing will be routed to that treatment center. Calls to any general helpline will be answered or returned by one of the treatment providers listed, each of which is a paid advertiser: ARK Behavioral Health, Recovery Helpline, Alli Addiction Services.