Alcohol intoxication: Signs, symptoms, and treatment

By: Tim Mcintosh

Therapy generally is maintained until methanol levels are less than 20 mg/dL. The first thing a healthcare provider may do in case of alcohol poisoning is check your vital signs to assess your breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, and check for low body temperature. Being able to identify the signs of alcohol poisoning can save someone’s life. Luckily, there are a variety of ways to treat alcohol overdose including an antidote. According to the Mayo Clinic, open communication has been shown to greatly reduce the incidence of teen drinking and subsequent alcohol poisoning. The emergency room physician will monitor your vital signs, including your heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature.

  • Individuals who seek medical treatment for acute alcohol intoxication likely have additional medical problems related to chronic alcohol consumption or alcohol dependence.
  • You might consider sticking with one drink or abstaining from alcohol altogether.
  • B vitamins (ie, folic acid, pyridoxine, thiamine) may be useful in selected cases to reduce the toxicity of alcohol metabolites.
  • Alcohol is a powerful depressant, slowing down all your brain functions, including those that keep you alive.

In addition, any such changes and their justification will be included in the final report of the review. Ethanol also increases levels of adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. alcohol overdose Ethanol interferes with the balance of neurotransmitters in the brain by increasing the amount of gamma-aminobutyric acid. This amino acid, often called GABA, reduces central nervous system activity.

Importance of Responsible Drinking to Avoid Alcohol Overdose

Thus, oral ethanol administration for ethylene glycol intoxication may not be considered a universal guideline when fomepizole and hemodialysis are available. Recently, ethanol has largely been replaced by fomepizole as the antidote for toxic alcohols in many nations. Ethanol competes for alcohol dehydrogenase and has a greater affinity for the enzyme, making it useful for inhibiting the metabolism of ethylene glycol [15]. Although this is an appropriate treatment to prevent toxic metabolite production, ethanol therapy can be accompanied by substantial practical problems.

Among the alcohols with a short carbon chain ending with one (alcohol) or two (glycol) hydroxyl groups, there is a subset of compounds that are related by a similar toxic mode of action. While other alcohols such as ethanol and isopropanol produce their toxicity through the alcohol moiety, this subset produces acidic metabolites which are toxic and result in similar clinical features. In this review, this subset is denoted as the metabolically‐toxic alcohols and includes ethylene glycol, methanol and diethylene glycol.

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However, ethanol analyses need to be available which is not the case in many areas especially the developing world 19. Zakharov 97 monitored serum ethanol concentrations for 90 ± 20 (SD) hours in 21 methanol‐poisoned patients treated with ethanol. Concentrations were in the therapeutic range (100–150 mg/dL, 22–33 mmol l−1) 28% of the time, above the range 29% of the time (peaking at 350 mg/dL (76 mmol l−1)) and sub‐therapeutic 44% of the time. In ethylene glycol poisoning, thiamine and pyridoxine shunt metabolism of glyoxylic acid away from oxalate and favor the formation of less toxic metabolites. In patients with ethanol-related hypoglycemia, especially those who are malnourished or alcoholics, pretreatment with thiamine may be necessary. In pregnant women, both ethanol and fomepizole have been used to treat toxic alcohol ingestions 102, 103.

This systematic review aims to synthesize current evidence in the short- and long-term outcomes of post-toxic alcohol poisoning. Because fomepizole actually induces its own metabolism after 48 hours of treatment, if additional doses are needed, the dose should be increased to 15 mg/kg. The package insert or local poison center can help with the re-dosing strategy. Fomepizole should be continued until the serum ethylene glycol or methanol concentrations are less than 20 mg/dL.


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