Alcohol Poisoning; What is alcohol poisoning?

What is alcohol poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning occurs when someone consumes large amounts of alcohol that are toxic to the body. The brain begins to shut down involuntary functions that regulate breathing and heart rate, sometimes resulting in death. The amount of alcohol that causes alcohol poisoning is different for every person. It is not possible to accurately predict for each person what amount will cause them to overdose.

What happens to your body when you get alcohol poisoning?

It is common for someone who drank excessive amounts of alcohol to vomit since alcohol is an irritant to the stomach. There is then the danger of choking on vomit, which could cause death by asphyxiation in a person who is not conscious because of intoxication.

You should also know that a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. Even after a person stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. It is dangerous to assume the person will be fine by sleeping it off.

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

  • Person is known to have consumed large quantities of alcohol.
  • Person is unconscious and cannot be awakened.
  • Person has cold, clammy, unusually pale or bluish skin.
  • Person is breathing slowly or irregularly, less than 8 times a minute or more than 10 seconds between breaths.
  • Person vomits while passed out and does not wake up during or after.

Steps to deal with alcohol poisoning:

1. Wake the person up. Call their name; shake them; pinch their arm. If they don’t respond, get help!

2. Turn the person on their side so that if they get sick they will not choke on their vomit.

3. Check the person’s skin. If their skin is pale or bluish or cold or clammy, get help!

4. Check the person’s breathing. If it is irregular, or too slow/shallow (less than 8 breaths per minute or more than 10 seconds between breaths, get help!)

5. If you discover any one of the above problems, stay with the person, if you are on-campus call University Police at 716-673-3333, if you are off-campus call 911. It is important to contact emergency services quickly!


When in doubt always contact emergency services.

On-campus University Police 716-673-3333, Off-campus 911

Take the next step