What is Acute Alcohol Intoxication?
According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) , acute alcohol intoxication or ethanol toxicity results from the ingestion of large amounts of ethanol, usually in the form of alcohol. It may also be the result of the ingestion of household products that contain alcohol, such as colognes, mouthwash, aftershave, hair tonics, medication, and solvents
It affects multiple organ systems, particularly causing alcohol liver damage, in both the acute and chronic phases. Ethanol toxicity can occur in both acute and chronic settings, representing two different spectrums of disease. Acute alcohol intoxication usually follows the ingestion of a large amount of alcohol and is a clinically harmful condition.
Acute alcohol intoxication is also referred to as drunkenness, ethanol intoxication, or alcohol poisoning in severe cases. It is a temporary condition caused by drinking too much alcohol. The amount of alcohol needed for intoxication varies from person to person.
Because of the wide availability of alcoholic beverages, acute alcohol intoxication is quite common – affecting almost 10 percent of adults in the United States alone, leading to an estimated annual economic cost of over $250 billion. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) , estimates excessive alcohol use causes approximately 88,000 deaths annuallyTrusted Source in the United States.
The signs and symptoms of alcohol intoxication result in alterations in a person’s cognition, consciousness, perception, judgment, and behavior. These can differ between individuals and depend on the severity of drunkenness. Not only the effects of alcohol but also the complications caused by it – such as violence and accidents – are a significant threat to a person’s health.
Diagnosis of acute alcohol intoxication always demands ruling out other conditions. In moderate and severe cases, measuring the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is important. Alcoholism treatment focuses on avoiding complications and managing symptoms. Management and prognosis also change depending on the degree of intoxication, and on how long alcohol stays in your system. Acute alcohol intoxication can be successfully prevented by abstaining from alcohol or by learning how to reduce alcohol consumption safely.
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What Causes Acute Alcohol Intoxication?
Typically, alcohol intoxication is caused by drinking too much alcohol. However, the amount of alcohol needed for intoxication differs from one person to another. Factors that impact the likelihood of intoxication include:
- Genes – can make people more resistant or susceptible to alcohol.
- Different types of alcohol can have different effects on a person’s health. – Besides ethanol, which is found in alcoholic beverages, other types can be found in products, such as industrial applications, antifreeze products, disinfectants, and antiseptics.
- Amount of alcohol, which is crucial for intoxication – Binge drinking, having five or more alcoholic beverages, generally leads to acute alcohol intoxication. – For some people, the threshold lies far below that. – Risk increases the higher the percentage of alcohol is in the beverage.
- The rate of alcohol intake affects the body’s ability to cope – The faster alcohol is ingested, the higher the risk of intoxication.
- Children and old people have a reduced ability to eliminate alcohol – Children are particularly at risk of accidentally ingesting alcohol found in colognes, perfumes, mouthwash, aftershave, or cough medication.
- Previous food intake and hydration level influence the effects of alcohol.
- Higher body weight increases the ability to eliminate alcohol. This makes women on average more susceptible.
- Underlying conditions can reduce the ability to eliminate alcohol.
- Certain medications can reduce the ability to eliminate alcohol.
- Frequency and pattern of alcohol use can influence the resistance or susceptibility to the effects of alcohol – Symptoms of infrequent drinkers can be less predictable and sometimes less showing. – A person that rarely drinks can show signs of intoxication after small amounts of alcohol.
What are the Symptoms of Alcohol Intoxication?
Acute alcohol intoxication can happen quickly over a short amount of time. When an individual is drinking alcohol, one might notice different symptoms. These symptoms are connected with different stages or levels of intoxication.
The levels of intoxication differ from person to person because they’re based on sex, age, weight, and other factors.
But typically, the seven stages of alcohol intoxication and their symptoms include the following:
Sobriety or Low-Level Intoxication
If a person has consumed one or fewer drinks per hour, they’re considered to be sober, or low-level intoxicated. At this level of intoxication, the individual’s behavior will be normal with no visible signs of intoxication, such as delayed reaction time or slurred speech. Their blood alcohol content (BAC), which measures how much alcohol is in the bloodstream, will be very low at 0.01 to 0.05 percent.
If someone has generally consumed two to three drinks as a man or one to two drinks as a woman in an hour, they’ll enter the euphoric stage of intoxication.
Some symptoms include:
- A delayed reaction time
- Decreased inhibitions
- An increase in chattiness and confidence
Most individuals call this stage of intoxication being “tipsy.” A person’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at this level might range from 0.03 to 0.12 percent.
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At this stage, a man might have consumed three to five drinks in an hour, or two to four drinks for a woman. At this moment, a person will begin to experience a significant loss of coordination. and emotional instability.
Other symptoms include:
- A loss of judgment and memory
- Vision problems
- Loss of balance
Someone will appear visibly “drunk” at this stage. They’ll have a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.09 to 0.25 percent.
If a man consumes more than five drinks or a woman more than four drinks in an hour, they’ll enter the next level of intoxication, which is confusion.
This level of intoxication is marked by emotional outbursts and a major loss of coordination. The person may stagger when walking, may not be able to stand up, and will likely be extremely confused about what’s going on.
Individuals in this stage of alcohol intoxication are very likely to forget things happening around or to them. They might experience alcohol blackout without actually losing consciousness and may not be able to feel pain. This makes them at risk of injury.
At this stage, a person’s BAC is very high. It’ll range from 0.18 to 0.30 percent.
At this level of intoxication, a person no longer responds to the things happening around or to them. They won’t be able to walk or stand. They may lose control over their bodily functions or completely pass out, vomiting uncontrollably or becoming incontinent.
They may also have blue-tinged or pale skin or experience seizures. Their gag reflexes and breathing will likely be impaired. This level can be very dangerous and even deadly if an individual becomes critically injured or chokes on their vomit.
Any of these symptoms are signs that immediate medical attention is necessary. At this stage, a person’s BAC will range from 0.25 to 0.4 percent.
This stage is extremely dangerous. A person’s blood circulation and breathing will be extremely slowed. Their gag reflexes and motor responses are nonfunctional, and their body temperature drops. A person at this stage is at risk of death.
Their BAC will measure 0.35 to 0.45 percent. Emergency medical attention is necessary at this point to avoid death and severe health problems.
At a BAC of 0.45 percent or above, a person is likely to die from acute alcohol intoxication. It may seem like a person has to drink a lot to get to this stage. But if a person drinks very quickly, they can get to this stage before long.
How is Acute Alcohol Intoxication Treated?
People cannot treat acute alcohol intoxication — or alcohol poisoning — at home. If anyone shows signs of severe intoxication, contact emergency services immediately.
Follow these steps while waiting for professional assistance:
- If the person is conscious and can swallow, give them water, and have them lie on their side. This helps prevent the person from choking if they vomit.
- If the person is unconscious, turn them on their side.
- In the emergency room, a doctor will check their BAC and look for other signs of alcohol poisoning, such as a slow heart rate and low blood sugar and electrolyte levels.
- A healthcare professional will monitor the person’s vital signs while they recover. The doctor or nurse may also:
- Administer fluids intravenously — with an IV — to prevent dehydration
- Administer vitamins and sugar to treat low blood sugar
- insert a breathing tube to open the airways and provide more oxygen to the body
- Pump the stomach to rid the body of excess alcohol
Alcohol Toxicity Management
Treatment for acute ethanol toxicity is mostly supportive. The first priority, as always, is airway protection. The main life-threatening complication of acute alcohol intoxication is respiratory depression. Although most patients who experience acute alcohol intoxication receive intravenous fluids, there is no solid evidence to support this.
Alcohol does act as a diuretic; therefore, most patients who receive intravenous fluids are in an attempt to treat dehydration. As mentioned above, checking a point of care glucose is important, as many patients with alcohol use disorder will have depleted glycogen stores, and treating hypoglycemia is important, especially before replenishing vitamins such as thiamine.
Few studies have shown vitamin deficiencies in intoxicated patients; therefore, the routine use of IV multivitamins should be considered on a case-to-case basis. In contrast, routine use of thiamine (Vitamin B1) is recommended for patients with alcohol use disorder, especially in the setting of altered mental status.
Detecting occult thiamine deficiency and Wernicke encephalopathy (wet brain) is difficult, and this condition has a high mortality. Therefore, the cost/benefit analysis falls in favor of administering thiamine. Patients with alcohol use disorder may not benefit from IV fluids, and consideration must be made for alcoholic cardiomyopathy in this patient population before administering fluids.
Some patients may become violent or agitated. In these situations, sedative substances may be needed, including haloperidol or droperidol, keeping in mind the potential interaction between alcohol and drugs. Depending on the severity of the acute alcohol intoxication and complications such as Wernicke encephalopathy, alcoholic hepatitis, or dysrhythmias, patients may have to be admitted to the hospital for further treatment.
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Alcoholism Treatment, Inpatient Rehab New Jersey
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) , Many people struggle with controlling their drinking at some time in their lives. More than 14 million adults ages 18 and older have alcohol use disorder (AUD), and 1 in 10 children live in a home with a parent who has a drinking problem.
The good news is that no matter how severe the problem may seem, most people with alcoholism can benefit from some form of treatment. Research shows that about one-third of people who are treated for alcohol problems have no further symptoms one year later. Many others substantially reduce their drinking and report fewer alcohol-related problems.
When asked how alcoholism is treated, individuals commonly think of 12-step programs or 28-day inpatient rehab but may have difficulty naming other options. In fact, there is a mixture of alcoholism treatment methods currently available, thanks to significant advances in the field over the past 60 years.
Types of Alcoholism Treatment
Behavioral treatments are aimed at changing drinking behavior through counseling. They are led by health professionals and supported by studies showing they can be beneficial.
Three medications are currently approved in the United States to help people stop or reduce their drinking and prevent relapse. They are prescribed by a primary care physician or other health professional and may be used alone or in combination with counseling.
Types of Professionals Involved in Care
Many health professionals can play a role in treatment. Below is a list of providers and the type of care they may offer.
Primary Care Provider
- Medications, Brief Behavioral Treatment, Referral to Specialist
- Medications, Brief Behavioral Treatment, Referral to Specialist
- Behavioral Treatment
- Behavioral Treatment
- Behavioral Treatment
Types of Behavioral Treatments, Dual Diagnosis Programs in New Jersey
Cognitive–Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
CBT can take place one-on-one with a therapist or in small groups. This form of therapy is focused on identifying the feelings and situations (called “cues”) that lead to heavy drinking and managing stress that can lead to relapse. The goal is to change the thought processes that lead to alcohol misuse and to develop the skills necessary to cope with everyday situations that might trigger problem drinking.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy
It is conducted over a short period of time to build and strengthen motivation to change drinking behavior. The therapy focuses on identifying the pros and cons of seeking treatment, forming a plan for making changes in one’s drinking, building confidence, and developing the skills needed to stick to the plan.
Marital and Family Counseling
It incorporates spouses and other family members in the treatment process and can play an important role in repairing and improving family relationships. Studies show that strong family support through family therapy increases the chances of maintaining abstinence (stopping drinking), compared with patients undergoing individual counseling.
Brief interventions are short, one-on-one, or small-group counseling sessions that are time-limited. The counselor provides information about the individual’s drinking pattern and potential risks. After the client receives personalized feedback, the counselor will work with him or her to set goals and provide ideas for helping to make a change.
Ultimately, choosing to get treatment may be more important than the approach used, as long as the approach avoids heavy confrontation and incorporates empathy, motivational support, and a focus on changing drinking behavior.
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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved three medications for treating alcohol dependence, and others are being tested to determine whether they are effective.
- Naltrexone can help people reduce heavy drinking.
- Acamprosate makes it easier to maintain abstinence.
- Disulfiram blocks the breakdown (metabolism) of alcohol by the body, causing unpleasant symptoms such as nausea and flushing of the skin. Those unpleasant effects can help some people avoid drinking while taking disulfiram.
It is important to remember that not all people will respond to medications, but for a subset of individuals, they can be an important tool in overcoming alcohol dependence.
Find the Right Treatment at We Level Up NJ
During your rehabilitation, the staff from We Level Up NJ treatment facility will help you identify what caused your addiction and teach you skills that will help you change your behavior patterns and challenge the negative thoughts that led to your addiction.
Please, do not try to detox on your own, especially if you show any signs and symptoms of acute alcohol intoxication. The detox process can be painful and difficult without medical assistance. It’s hard enough that you are struggling with acute alcohol intoxication. If you or someone you know is struggling with this condition, it is important to intervene early.
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