Skip to main content

Alcohol poisoning

Alcohol poisoning is when you drink more alcohol than your body can cope with.

If you drink too much too quickly, your body will not be able to process the alcohol quickly enough. Your body has to work hard to remove alcohol from your system.

When alcohol is broken down in your body it creates an even more toxic substance. This is called acetaldehyde.

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning

Symptoms of alcohol poising include:

  • loss of balance, loss of coordination, confusion
  • feeling sick (nausea) and being sick (vomiting)
  • slow breathing (less than 8 breaths a minute)
  • seizures (fits)
  • low body temperature
  • skin that is cold and clammy or pale and bluish
  • stupor (being unresponsive) or unconsciousness (passing out)

What to do if you think someone has alcohol poisoning

If you think someone has alcohol poisoning:

  • dial 999 or 112 and ask for an ambulance
  • turn them on to their side and place a cushion under their head - to stop them choking on their own vomit
  • do not try to make the person vomit
  • do not leave them alone to ‘sleep it off’, even if they appear to be breathing normally - alcohol levels can continue rising for up to 30 to 40 minutes after the last drink

Although you can die from alcohol poisoning, most people recover. Especially if they are cared for properly.

page last reviewed: 08/11/2019
next review due: 08/11/2022