Center for Alcohol and Related Issues Education


Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol depresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing, the heartbeat and the gag reflex that prevents choking.  A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually stop these functions.  After the victim stops drinking, the heart keeps beating, and the alcohol in the stomach continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate through the system.


  • Person is unconscious or semi-conscious and cannot be awakened
  • No response to pinching the skin
  • Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin
  • Check to see if breathing is slow, less than 8 times per minute, or irregular, with 10 seconds or more between breaths
  • Vomiting while “sleeping” or passed out, and not waking up after vomiting

If a person has any of these symptoms:

  • Get help.  Call 911, let a staff person know. Get someone who can help
  • Do not leave the person alone.  Turn the victim on his/her side to prevent choking in case of vomiting
  • Always be “better safe than sorry” if you are not sure what to do. How can a friend be angry about you caring

Alcohol Poisoning CANNOT be reversed by:

  • Drinking black coffee
  • Taking a cold bath or shower
  • Walking it off

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