Friday, November 30, 2012

Health Care and Alcohol Poisoning During the Holidays

Drinking alcohol has significant consequences, especially if imbibing is done in excess. During the Holidays, many individuals push themselves to participate in as many parties and activities as possible. Also, during this Season is when most accidents occur due to alcoholic consumption, and the death rate also increases as a higher percentage of adults and teens are guilty of drinking and driving—definitely not smart. Plus, it’s against the law.

Another popular sport, particularly in the college age crowd, is binge drinking. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), binge drinking is the most common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks, and when women consume 4 or more drinks, in about 2 hours. More info can be found at this site: http://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/binge-drinking.htm .

Most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent. According to the CDC, national surveys show the following statistics about binge drinking:

• One in six U.S. adults binge drinks about four times a month, consuming about eight drinks per binge.
• While binge drinking is more common among young adults aged 18–34 years, binge drinkers aged 65 years and older report binge drinking more often—an average of five to six times a month.
• Binge drinking is more common among those with household incomes of $75,000 or more than among those with lower incomes.
• Approximately 92% of U.S. adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the past 30 days.
• Although college students commonly binge drink, 70% of binge drinking episodes involve adults age 26 years and older.
• The prevalence of binge drinking among men is twice the prevalence among women.
• Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers.
• About 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.
• More than half of the alcohol consumed by adults in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.

According to Medical News Today, when somebody consumes an alcoholic drink, their liver has to filter out the alcohol, a toxin, from their blood. We absorb alcohol much more quickly than food - alcohol gets to our bloodstream much faster. However, the liver can only process a limited amount of alcohol; approximately one unit of alcohol every hour. If you drink two units in one hour, there will be an extra unit in your bloodstream. If during the next hour you drink another two units, you will have two units floating around in your bloodstream at the end of two hours after your drinking session. The faster you drink, the higher your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) becomes. If you drink too fast, your BAC can spike dangerously high.

Rapid drinking can bring your BAC so high that your mental and physical functions become negatively affected. Your breathing, heartbeat and gag reflex - which are controlled by types of nerves - might not work properly. You become breathless, you may choke, and your heart rhythm might become irregular. If your BAC is high enough, these physical functions can stop working, the patient stops breathing and passes out (loses consciousness). In the USA approximately 50,000 cases of alcohol poisoning are reported annually. About one patient dies each week in the USA from alcohol poisoning. Those at highest risk of suffering from alcohol poisoning are college students, chronic alcoholics, those taking medications that might clash with alcohol, and sometimes children who may drink because they wish to know what it is like, according to Medical News Today. A significant amount of additional info can be found at this website: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/215627.php .

Do you know the signs of acute alcohol poisoning? Do you know what to do if someone is suffering from its effects? Your friend who had way too much to drink, may not just be sleeping it off. If he or she is suffering from acute alcohol poisoning, as a result of drinking too much too quickly, they could die if you do not intervene. How do you tell the difference between being passed out and alcohol poisoning?

According to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol poisoning symptoms include:

• Confusion, stupor
• Vomiting
• Seizures
• Slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
• Irregular breathing (a gap of more than 10 seconds between breaths)
• Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
• Low body temperature (hypothermia)
• Unconsciousness ("passing out"), and can't be roused

It's not necessary for all of these symptoms to be present before you seek help. A person who is unconscious or can't be roused is at risk of dying. If you suspect that someone has alcohol poisoning — even if you don't see the classic signs and symptoms — seek immediate medical care. In an emergency, follow these suggestions:

• If the person is unconscious, breathing less than eight times a minute or has repeated, uncontrolled vomiting, call 911 or your local emergency number immediately. Keep in mind that even when someone is unconscious or has stopped drinking, alcohol continues to be released into the bloodstream and the level of alcohol in the body continues to rise. Never assume that a person will "sleep off" alcohol poisoning.

• If the person is conscious, call 800-222-1222 (in the U.S.), and you'll automatically be routed to your local poison control center. The staff at the poison control center or emergency call center can instruct you as to whether you should take the person directly to a hospital. All calls to poison control centers are confidential.

• Be prepared to provide information. If you know, be sure to tell hospital or emergency personnel the kind and amount of alcohol the person drank, and when.

• Don't leave an unconscious person alone. While waiting for help, don't try to make the person vomit. Alcohol poisoning affects the way your gag reflex works. That means someone with alcohol poisoning may choke on his or her own vomit or accidentally inhale (aspirate) vomit into the lungs, which could cause a fatal lung injury.

• Much more information can be found at this site: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alcohol-poisoning/DS00861 .

Alcohol poisoning is a life threatening situation. During the Holidays, don’t let yourself or any friends or relatives over indulge with alcohol of any type. The festivities of the Season should not be tragically interrupted by someone who has not learned self control with alcohol. Do yourself and everyone around a favor when it comes to drinking. Slow down, or just don’t drink. And, in particular, if you are out in a crowd at a restaurant or home, have a designated driver or call a cab to take you home. You sure don’t want to be on the evening news as the next lead story of a traffic fatality.

Until next time.

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