What's Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning, which can result from binge drinking, poses a very real threat and can lead to death and serious health problems.

Alcohol often causes poisonings among adults, but many people are unaware that alcohol can be toxic, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Alcohol poisoning can potentially lead to coma and death.

Binge drinking, or consuming five or more drinks in a row, is involved in most cases of alcohol poisoning, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Because alcohol is a depressant, when the body is unable to handle a large amount of alcohol, heart and lung functions slow down, sometimes to dangerously low levels.

The gag reflex, which would normally prevent a person from choking, is also depressed by alcohol. Victims of alcohol poisoning can choke on their own tongue or vomit while unconscious. Vomiting can lead to severe dehydration, which can cause seizures, permanent brain damage or death, according to the NIAAA.

Here are some alcohol-related statistics according to the National Alcohol Screening Day report.

  • Alcohol use contributes to a range of chronic health consequences including cancer and cardiovascular disease.
  • The economic costs of alcohol abuse in the United States are estimated to be approximately $185 billion annually.
  • Women are more vulnerable than men to many of the medical consequences of alcohol use. Alcoholic women can develop cirrhosisandcan damage their heartsand nerves after fewer years of heavy drinking than alcoholic men.
  • Heavy alcohol consumption is known to result in memory deficits. also It may also increase the risk for Alzheimer's disease in both genders and in women in particular, as they appear to be more vulnerable than men to alcoholinduced brain damage
  • Almost 40 percent of high school seniors perceive no great risk in consuming four to five drinks nearly every day.
  • More than 44 percent of full-time college students report consuming five or more drinks on the same occasion at least once in the past 30 days.
Remy Melina was a staff writer for Live Science from 2010 to 2012. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Communication from Hofstra University where she graduated with honors.