Alcohol poisoning can happen to anyone, and when it does the results can sometimes be disastrous and even fatal. There exists a general misconception that alcohol poisoning is a condition reserved for drunken fraternity brothers and irresponsible college students, but the fact is that it can and does happen all the time to a wide variety of people. This includes "weekend warriors," people who are on vacation, families and friends celebrating the holidays, and virtually anyone who drinks. Because alcohol impairs judgment, it can be difficult for a person to know when to stop, and if they drink too much too fast the consequences could be deadly.

Alcohol poisoning is caused when a person consumes more alcohol than their liver and kidneys can process. While this ratio, referred to as the Blood Alcohol Level or BAC, is reached by different people at different times, the general rule is that a healthy human can process one ounce of alcohol per hour and still be under most state's DUI, OUI or DWI standards. Therefore, anyone who drinks more than this in an hour could place themselves in a dangerous situation – especially when consuming high-alcohol content drinks, such as shots of liquor or drinks like martinis.

Alcohol is a nervous systems depressant which means that it begins to shut down the brain and spine. This is why so many people have difficulty walking and carrying on normal tasks while drinking. However, alcohol is also a stomach irritant and a respiratory depressant – two potentially lethal effects. For instance, if a person drinks too much and loses consciousness, they could vomit and then aspirate the vomit into their lungs and die from asphyxiation. This is actually a fairly common occurrence and is one of the biggest risks with alcohol poisoning. In fact, according to the Consumer Information Depot; "Approximately 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning are reported each year." And while not all of these lead to fatalities, this figure is disturbing considering that many cases of alcohol poisoning go completely unreported.

Unfortunately, education about alcohol poisoning isn't very widespread or effective. Additionally, most people who drink to excess do so in the presence of other people who are drinking to excess. This means that there is no system in place to monitor people who may be in danger of alcohol poisoning. And while many have suggested the incorporation of alcohol poisoning education into designated driver programs this has rarely been implemented.

The symptoms of alcohol poisoning can be difficult to notice if the victim has passed out. In such a case it is imperative to turn the person on their back so that if they do vomit they will not breathe it in. The Mayo Clinic defines other symptoms in detail: "Confusion, stupor, vomiting, seizures, slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute), irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths), blue-tinged skin or pale skin, low body temperature (hypothermia), unconsciousness ("passing out"), and can't be roused."

Finally, repeated cases of alcohol poisoning or black-outs could be a sign of alcoholism. If you or someone you care about drinks to excess, passes out, has been to the hospital for alcohol poisoning or has changed their behaviors and personality in order to continue drinking, you need to get help immediately. Click on one of the links below to get assistance right now.

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Author's Bio: 

Ms. Javis is a former attorney and cirotta judge in the western Sahara. She is a prolific writer and editor and spends her free time writing from her mountain home in the Congo.