The 7 Stages of Alcohol Intoxication

This is usually in patients who are chronic alcohol abusers or patients already affected by alcoholic cirrhosis. Active excessive alcohol consumption is the second most frequent precipitating event for acute on chronic liver failure, with bacterial infection being the first. The most effective therapy for alcoholic liver disease is prolonged abstinence from alcohol.

Patients may be in significant distress or comatose and unable to give any useful history. In these cases, the clinician must rely upon the nature of the presentation and the presence of metabolic derangements—and must always keep a high index of suspicion for toxic alcohol poisoning. Poisoning with methanol, ethylene glycol, and isopropanol present diagnostic and therapeutic challenges to emergency physicians.

What is alcohol poisoning?

It is absorbed through the lining of your stomach into your bloodstream. Alcohol reaches your brain in only five minutes, and starts to affect you within 10 minutes. Use of this website and any information contained herein is governed by the Healthgrades User Agreement. The content on Healthgrades does not provide medical advice.

You may worry about what will happen to you or a friend or family member, especially if underage. But the results of not getting help in time can be far more serious. Alcohol poisoning also can occur when adults or children accidentally or intentionally drink household products that contain alcohol. In some countries, there are special facilities, sometimes known as “drunk tanks”, for the temporary detention of persons found to be drunk. You will not be able to breathe normally, and your gag reflex won’t work correctly.

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Methanol is rapidly absorbed following ingestion and is metabolized by ADH. Toxicity has been reported with as little as 15 ml of 40% methanol solution, which is its approximate concentration in -30-degree F windshield washer fluid (2). Individuals with severe AUD may consume a significant portion of their daily calories from alcohol, depriving their bodies of essential nutrients. Drinking to excess can impair absorption and digestion of nutrients from food, as well as the liver’s ability to use them. Nutrition also plays a role in preventing and treating cardiovascular and liver diseases, two potential consequences of alcohol misuse, and it is an important factor in FASD.

  • The person drinking may go in and out of consciousness, making it difficult to keep them awake.
  • The development of generic fomepizole has made treatment costs comparable to ethanol and have solidified it as the treatment of choice (5, 10).
  • At this stage of intoxication, the person’s behavior will be normal with no visible signs of intoxication, such as slurred speech or delayed reaction time.
  • A single drink may put a person over their state’s BAC limit for driving.

Unlike laypersons, researchers, doctors, therapists, and a host of other professionals require a consensus on what constitutes the different levels of alcohol use. As the primary site of alcohol metabolism, the liver is particularly vulnerable to damage from drinking. Alcohol misuse can lead to alcoholic liver disease (ALD), a serious and potentially fatal disease that includes steatosis (fatty liver), alcoholic hepatitis (AH), cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma. AH, which has a mortality rate of more than 50 percent within the first 60 days of diagnosis in severe cases,20 is a particularly important area of focus for NIAAA. NIAAA will continue to support research on ALD, including through translational research consortia aimed at improving our understanding of the mechanisms underlying AH and translating this knowledge into novel therapies. A major focus of NIAAA’s work is to generate a more thorough understanding of these processes and to translate this information into innovative interventions for AUD and co-occurring mental health conditions.

Stage 6: Coma

It is the active component in “alcohol swabs” used in modern medicine. The majority of isopropanol exposures are unintentional and occur most commonly in children less than 6 years old (4). Other exposures have also been reported in suicide attempts and as an ethanol replacement (10). Poison control data from 1997, 1999, and 2004 showed a total of 27,000 exposures making it more common than methanol and ethylene glycol. These exposures presented very low mortality (0.1% in 2004) (10). EG is metabolized in a 2-step process by ADH and aldehyde dehydrogenase with first-order kinetics.

In 2012, an estimated 855,000 young people between years of age had this disorder. The physical findings depend on the stage of the presentation. Thus, the patient may present simply inebriated or progressively more acidotic as renal failure, cardiovascular dysfunction, and coma develop. Following an isopropanol ingestion, the patient may not complain of anything specific. Rather, the patient may simply appear intoxicated, as with ethanol intoxication.


More than 70 percent had an alcoholic drink in the past year, and 56 percent drank in the past month. When a person drinks alcohol, ethanol passes through the digestive system and enters the bloodstream through the linings of the stomach and intestines. If an individual drinks alcohol on an empty stomach, their BAC usually peaks within 30–90 minutes. Keep reading to learn more about alcohol intoxication, including its causes, symptoms, and treatments. Although people can safely consume alcohol without experiencing immediate adverse health effects, long term alcohol consumption can jeopardize overall health. After an episode of alcohol intoxication, it takes time to recover.

Its authors explain that people may judge the severity of their intoxication based on how drunk people around them are, which distorts their perceptions in environments where most people are drunk. Heavy drinking tends to cause more serious intoxication and may eventually cause serious health issues, such as blackouts or kidney failure. You can drink a fatal amount stages of alcohol intoxication of alcohol before you pass out. Even if you’re unconscious, your stomach and intestines continue to release alcohol into your bloodstream, increasing the level of alcohol in your body. Your liver usually does a good job of keeping alcohol’s toxins from getting into your bloodstream. But if you drink a lot in a short time, your liver may not be able to keep up.

What are the causes of alcohol intoxication?

Know the danger signals, and if you suspect that someone has an alcohol overdose, call 911 for help immediately. Do not wait for the person to have all the symptoms, and be aware that a person who has passed out can die. Don’t play doctor—cold showers, hot coffee, and walking do not reverse the effects of alcohol overdose and could actually make things worse. Drinking too much and too quickly can lead to significant impairments in motor coordination, decision-making, impulse control, and other functions, increasing the risk of harm.

stages of alcohol intoxication

At The Recovery Village Cherry Hill at Cooper, we have years of experience helping people get the treatment they need for addiction and achieving a life free from alcohol addiction. Contact us today to learn how we can help you start your journey to lasting recovery. It is important to note that the effects of different BAC levels vary for everyone.

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