Alcohol Poisoning

What is Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning is a condition caused by high concentrations of alcohol in the blood. Blood alcohol concentration rises as alcohol is consumed in large quantities and over short periods of time. 


  • Person cannot be awakened
  • Person has cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin
  • Person has slow, shallow, or irregular breathing
  • Person is vomiting while passed out and does not wake up

These symptoms are typical of a BAC level in the vicinity of .25-.40.  At that level, the depressant effects of alcohol can simply slow the breathing and heart rate down to a point where a person enters a coma and may die.

However, alcohol can kill before a deadly BAC level is reached. If someone vomits while asleep or passed out, and they are unable to clear their mouth (or if they are asleep on their back), death may occur from asphyxiation. In other words, there is a risk the person could drown on their vomit. This is a risk if the person is drunk enough to vomit, even if they do not have other symptoms of alcohol poisoning.

If You Suspect Alcohol Poisoning...

  • Call 911 if someone shows symptoms of alcohol poisoning
  • Do not leave them alone
  • Do not put them in bed to sleep it off
  • If they pass out, put them on their side to prevent choking on vomit
  • If breathing stops, perform CPR or find someone who knows how

Prevent Alcohol Poisoning in the First Place

It's better to avoid a crisis altogether. Here are some tips to prevent alcohol poisoning in the first place:

  • If you go out with friends, stay together as a group
  • Let someone else know what you are doing and who you are with
  • Set a limit. Before you go out, decide how many drinks you will have.
  • Know the alcohol content and serving size of what you plan to drink.
  • Follow other risk reduction techniques. 

Updated: 12/02/2017 01:58AM