Alcohol can be a tough topic, because it is so widely used but can also be very dangerous. Here are a few things you may not know about alcohol.
Is alcohol considered a drug?
Absolutely. The National Institutes of Health correctly identify alcohol as a drug. In fact, it’s a drug that caries risks for all, particularly for adolescents, whose brains are still developing. It is classified as a depressant, meaning that it slows down vital functions and reduces a person’s ability to think with clear, rational judgement.
Alcohol is legal, so it can’t be that dangerous, right?
Wrong. Prescription drugs are legal, and we all know how dangerous they can be if they are misused. In fact, 32% of all traffic deaths are the result of alcohol use. Add in the detrimental effects of alcohol on the liver, heart, and brain, and you end up with this sad and staggering statistic:
According to The Center for Disease Control and Prevention, about 88,000 lives are claimed each year due to alcohol abuse.
Is there such a thing as alcohol overdose?
Most people aren’t aware that you can overdose from alcohol. Overdoses can include problems with balance and slurred speech to coma or even death. The amount of alcohol that can lead someone to a dangerous overdose varies among individuals and age, weight, gender, drinking experience, the amount of food eaten, and even ethnicity all can influence how much is too much.
Is substance abuse in children a problem?
Underage and new drinkers are at highest risk for alcohol overdose. Research from NIAAA tells us that people under age 20 typically drink about 5 drinks at one time. Drinking such a large quality of alcohol can overwhelm the body’s ability to break down and clear alcohol from the bloodstream. This leads to rapid increases in blood alcohol content (BAC) and significantly impairs brain function.
As BAC increases, so do alcohol’s effects, as well as the risk for harm. Even small increases in BAC can decrease coordination, make a person feel sick, and cloud judgment. This can lead to injury from falls or car crashes, leave one vulnerable to sexual assault or other acts of violence, and increase the risk for unprotected or unintended sex. When BACs go even higher, amnesia (or blackouts) can occur.
What is alcohol poisoning and can it be deadly?
Continuing to drink despite signs and symptoms of significant impairment can result in a potentially deadly type of overdose called alcohol poisoning. NIAAA states that “Alcohol poisoning occurs when there is so much alcohol in the bloodstream that areas of the brain controlling basic life-support functions—such as breathing, heart rate, and temperature control—begin to shut down.
Keep in mind that the person’s BAC can continue to rise even if the person has stopped drinking and is unconscious. Alcohol in the stomach and intestine are continuously entering the bloodstream increasing the person’s BAC even after they stop drinking.
According to NIAAA, symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
- Confusion and difficulty remaining conscious
- Trouble with breathing
- Slow heart rate
- Clammy skin
- Dulled responses (such as no gag reflex, which prevents choking)
- Extremely low body temperature