Drinking too much can make you feel sick and cause a strong hangover as your body recovers from the toxins left over. You may be dehydrated and feel minor symptoms of withdrawal. But what happens when you feel sick, disoriented, or lose consciousness while you’re drinking? These are a few signs of alcohol poisoning that, unlike a hangover, require immediate medical attention. Below are more of the signs as well as the reasons why veterans need to seek help if they’re struggling with an alcohol use disorder.
What Is Alcohol Poisoning?
Alcohol poisoning, also referred to as alcohol overdose, occurs when an individual has too much alcohol in their blood. When you drink more than your body can handle in a short period of time, it overwhelms the liver. This excess alcohol isn’t metabolized quickly enough causing blood alcohol levels to get too high. As a result, the parts of the brain that control vital body functions begin to shut down.
Although everyone carries a risk of alcohol poisoning, women tend to have higher blood alcohol levels than men after drinking the same amount. This puts women at a greater risk of experiencing alcohol poisoning. Despite this, men between the ages of 35 and 64 have the highest risk of dying from alcohol poisoning.
Signs of Alcohol Poisoning
The symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
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- Confusion or stupor
- Lack of coordination and alertness
- Difficulty remaining conscious
- Low body temperature (can lead to hypothermia)
- Low blood sugar level
- Irregular breathing, heart rate, or pulse
One of the biggest dangers to someone experiencing the symptoms of alcohol poisoning is losing their gag reflex. This puts them at a higher risk of choking on or aspiring their vomit. Additionally, these symptoms can signal that other parts of the body are shutting down, including the brain, liver, and kidneys. As a result, you should seek medical attention if you suspect that you or someone else is experiencing alcohol poisoning. In an emergency, call 911; getting help in time can be a matter of life or death.
What Causes Alcohol Poisoning?
Alcohol is considered a toxic substance because it can cause harm to the body any time your drink. However, the amount of alcohol required to cause alcohol poisoning depends on a few factors including a person’s age, sex, size, and weight. It also depends on how much they drink, how fast they drink, whether they are eating, if they mixed other substances and their overall health. Together these factors can influence your risk of alcohol overdose or poisoning.
Signs of alcohol poisoning commonly occur as a result of binge drinking. Binge drinking is considered four or more drinks in one sitting for women and five or more drinks in one sitting for men. Not everyone who binge drinks struggles with alcohol use disorder (AUD), but regular binge drinking can lead to increased tolerance as well as dependence. Over 40 percent of young, active-duty personnel indulge in binge drinking with 70 percent of them being heavy drinkers.
Heavy drinking is common among active duty military personnel as well as veterans. Drinking alcohol is part of military culture. It’s a way to bond with peers and celebrate milestones. Restaurants also offer discounts to active duty military personnel and veterans, which can encourage drinking. Having an occasional celebratory drink isn’t a cause for concern. But when drinking alcohol becomes a coping mechanism against underlying trauma and begins to interfere with your life, you may be showing signs of AUD.
How to Recover From the Signs of Alcohol Poisoning
If someone is showing signs of alcohol poisoning, they may need life-saving treatment immediately. Healthcare professionals will intravenous (IV) fluids to treat hydration and raise blood sugar levels. In some cases, they may also need to provide oxygen, pump the stomach, or filter the blood through dialysis.
To avoid alcohol poisoning, you should drink in moderation and stay hydrated. This also means you shouldn’t drink on an empty stomach, while using prescription medication, or play drinking games. However, drinking in moderation may not be possible for those who are struggling with addiction.
Why Is This Important for Veterans?
Veterans who deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan showed an increase in alcohol consumption primarily as a result of combat exposure. This includes bearing witness to violence and death, experiencing emotional, physical, and sexual assault, as well as sustaining injuries, and having limited contact with loved ones. Any combination of these experiences often causes emotional distress which in turn can lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression.
Turning to alcohol to cope with these mental health conditions can increase the likelihood of developing an AUD. Moreover, drinking in place of healthy coping mechanisms can worsen symptoms, making it harder to stop drinking. At first, you may feel a sense of relief because of the calming effects of the substance. However, regular usage can lead to withdrawal. Trying to avoid withdrawal symptoms by continuously drinking can lead to alcohol poisoning or other serious health issues.
Veterans showing the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning or AUD often require comprehensive treatment to address the relationship between their mental health and drinking habits.
How Veterans Can Get Help for Alcohol Use Disorder
The signs of alcohol poisoning can lead to serious complications that can be fully treated if you seek help right away. However, you may be at an increased risk of experiencing alcohol poisoning again if you’re struggling with AUD. Therefore, you should seek help to put an end to the cycle of addiction.
At Heroes’ Mile, we offer a medical detox for veterans, residential rehab, partial hospitalization program, and intensive outpatient program to meet the needs of all veterans. With the help of our medical, therapy, and nursing personnel, you can begin recovery. Trauma-informed therapy is the most effective form of treatment for veterans in recovery from AUD. These therapeutic techniques include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Eye movement desensitization reprocessing therapy
- Traumatic incident reduction therapy
- Equine therapy
- Art therapy
- Group therapy
In addition to these evidence-based methods, we also provide intensive relapse prevention, nutrition education, and physical fitness training to guide you through every phase of recovery. Every veteran at Heroes’ Mile receives the structure and support they need to overcome their trauma and addiction one step at a time.
Start Recovery at Heroes’ Mile in DeLand, Florida
Heroes’ Mile is dedicated to helping veterans overcome challenges associated with addiction and mental health problems. Not all civilian treatment centers have the necessary resources to address the unique experiences of veterans. That’s why veterans benefit from the comprehensive services of a veteran-exclusive recovery center. If you think you’ve experienced signs of alcohol poisoning and are ready to get sober, then we’ve got your six.
If you have questions about how we can help you overcome an alcohol addiction, call our admissions team at 888-838-6692. Or you can submit a confidential contact form online instead. Take the first step toward sobriety with other veterans at Heroes’ Mile.
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