Alcohol Poisoning


Alcohol is a toxin that most tissues in the body absorb. That means too much of it can harm many of your organs. If you choose to drink alcohol, keep your drinking at low to moderate levels. Alcohol includes beer, wine, and liquor. Alcohol affects people differently depending on their gender and age. Call the Poison Hotline—available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year at 1-800-222-1222—for questions regarding alcohol poisoning. If the situation appears serious or life threatening, dial 911 immediately.


Excessive alcohol use

Excessive drinking is responsible for injury, illness, and death. The Dietary Guidelines for Alcohol recommends that adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink, or to drink in moderation by limiting how much you drink.

  • Any alcohol use by pregnant women or anyone younger than 21 is considered excessive.
  • Binge drinking is defined as consuming 4 or more drinks on an occasion for a woman or 5 or more drinks on an occasion for a man.
  • Heavy drinking is defined as 8 or more drinks per week for a woman or 15 or more drinks per week for a man.

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning

  • Confusion
  • Difficult or very slow breathing
  • Disorientation
  • Pale or bluish skin
  • Seizures
  • Unresponsiveness
  • Vomiting

Alcohol and children

  • Acute alcohol poisoning in children can be life threatening.
  • Alcohol can harm children's development and health.
  • Store and lock away alcohol—out of sight and reach from children.
  • Hand sanitizers contain a high concentration of alcohol. Drinking hand sanitizers can lead to alcohol poisoning, Teach children to only use hand sanitizers with adult supervision and only use a dime-size amount on the skin.

Prevent alcohol poisoning

Prevent alcohol poisoning by following the tips below.

  • Store alcohol and hand sanitizers locked out of sight and reach from children.
  • Do not serve or provide alcohol to those who should not be drinking, including people under the age of 21, or those who have already consumed too much alcohol.
  • Talk with your healthcare provider about problematic drinking behavior.
  • The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends:
    • Women have no more than one drink a day or 7 drinks a week
    • Men have no more than 2 drinks a day or 14 drinks a week
  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends people 65 and older limit themselves to no more than 7 drinks a week.

Resources for alcohol addiction

Mental health

Alcohol abuse counseling programs

Visit the American Addiction Centers' Alcohol Abuse Counseling Programs to learn more about counseling for alcohol abuse and addiction and how useful and important an alcoholism therapist is in the treatment and recovery process.

Resources for Alcoholism

Browse public resources to learn more about alcohol use disorder or discover ways to work toward recovery and sobriety.

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