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alcohol intoxication

Acute alcohol intoxication: A Closer Look at the Hidden Dangers

Have you ever paused to ponder the often-underestimated perils of acute alcohol intoxication? What happens to your body and mind when you consume alcohol to excess, and how does it affect your well-being in ways you might not have considered? 

Join us as we embark on a journey to reveal the hidden dangers of acute alcohol intoxication, digging deep into the facts and insights that can reshape how you think about responsible drinking. Whether seeking knowledge for yourself or those around you, this exploration guides understanding and addressing this critical issue.

What is an acute alcohol intoxication?

Acute alcohol intoxication and chronic alcohol consumption are among the main problems we face in mental health and addictions. Alcohol is a substance belonging to the depressants of the central nervous system. It is a silent enemy widely accepted and used by most people.

Nowadays, witnessing a festive scenario without consuming intoxicating drinks is challenging. Historically, there has always been the belief that there is an abysmal difference between consumption by women and men. 

However, the latest surveys show similarities in customary consumption at some time in life between male and female adolescents, which allows us to predict in a calculated way that the trend of problematic consumption is increasing.

Severity of explosive consumption

The seriousness of explosive alcohol consumption generates two significant problems. These are:

  1. The first related to acute and chronic damage to health 
  2.  The second is associated with possible tragic events and accidents that occur daily in our country due to acute poisoning.

Alcohol, as the maximum representative of the depressant substances of the central nervous system, generates a decrease in its functioning, which can end the lives of our patients. There are several myths surrounding alcohol consumption that are worth clarifying.

Principles of acute alcohol intoxication

At the beginning of an alcohol intoxication, a false euphoria is generated, explained by inhibiting the prefrontal cortex. Our prefrontal cortex is the most evolved part of the nervous system. This site processes essential functions such as judgment, memory, and abstraction.

When alcohol enters our system, it takes an average of 20 minutes to start feeling the first effects. The clinical manifestations depend on the amount of alcohol ingested, the presence of gastric contents, the patient’s physical characteristics, sex, and even nationality.

Tolerance to alcohol

It is important to remember the phenomenon of tolerance is understood as the need for increasing amounts of alcohol to achieve effects. Tolerance depends on the induction of alcohol metabolic pathways and neurotransmission sensitization and desensitization phenomena.

After ingestion, alcohol is rapidly absorbed by the stomach’s mucosa in 30% and then by the proximal small intestine in the remaining 70%.

Symptoms of acute alcohol intoxication

The most important manifestations of acute alcohol intoxication are maladaptive behavioral changes such as:

  • Disinhibition of sexual impulses or aggression
  • Emotional lability 
  • Impaired judgment 
  • And social or work activity 
  • Slurred speech 
  • Incoordination 
  • Unsteady gait
  • Facial flushing
  • Mood change and irritability 
  • And decreased attention span

Scales: bridging the gap between physical symptoms and blood alcohol levels

Clinically, it is difficult to correlate the clinical characteristics of an intoxicated person with blood alcohol levels, urine alcohol levels, or exhaled alcohol levels since many individual peculiarities come into play. However, different scales allow you to equate physical symptoms with blood alcohol levels. Let´s see:

  • 20-30 mg/dl: fine control reaction time is affected, and critical faculty and mood are impaired.
  • 50-100 mg/dl: mild or moderate impairment of cognitive functions and difficulty in considerable motor skills.
  • 150-200 mg/dl: 50% of people can be intoxicated with ataxia and dysarthria, severe mental and physical impairment, euphoria, and combativeness.
  • 200-300 mg/dl: nausea, vomiting, diplopia, alterations in mental status.
  • 300-400 mg/dl: usually produces coma, hypotension, and hypothermia in people who drink not regularly.
  • 400-900 mg/dl: lethal range, regardless of whether or not you are a chronic ethanol-consuming patient.

Interestingly, from 200-300 mg/dl of alcohol in the blood, a gag reflex is activated to prevent the patient from continuing or perpetuating consumption. Unfortunately, some drugs inhibit this reflex, allowing the patient to reach very high concentrations and putting his life at risk.

The risk of reaching high levels of alcohol that can lead to acute alcohol intoxication lies in the inability of the individual to continue with good respiratory dynamics.

The most considerable complications associated with acute alcohol poisoning are respiratory depression and hypoglycemia, which puts the patient in danger.

Recommendations to face it 

Non-professional health personnel handling an individual who is intoxicated with alcohol must follow the necessary medical recommendations. These include activating the emergency system immediately, refraining from providing any oral intake of food or liquids, and placing the person in a safe position to avoid any possible aspiration or injury.

The safety position is left lateral decubitus, which implies that the patient is facing up on the left side.

Seek timely medical attention

Understanding how scales can correlate physical symptoms with blood alcohol levels is crucial in comprehending the effects of alcohol on our bodies. However, it’s important to remember that in cases of excessive consumption or alcohol-related issues, seeking professional help is paramount. 

We should not underestimate the significance of consulting a medical doctor or addiction therapist. 

Professional assistance can make a significant difference in the lives of those battling alcohol abuse, providing them with the necessary support for a successful recovery and a path to a healthier, more balanced life. Do not hesitate to seek help if you need it or if someone you know is facing these challenges.

Dr. Carlos Olmos Hernández

Oceanic Medical Coordinator

8562831 – 12559523 – 12559549

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