Chat with us, powered by LiveChat

Peachtree Recovery Solutions

Alcohol Poisoning vs. Hangover: What’s the Difference?

Home » Blog » Alcohol Poisoning vs. Hangover: What’s the Difference?

An intense hangover may make you feel like you have been poisoned – but as we discuss in today’s post, there are important differences between alcohol poisoning vs. hangovers.

The Difference Between Alcohol Poisoning vs. Hangover

Alcohol poisoning and hangovers can both result from drinking too much. But these two experiences are far from identical. Here are three key distinctions between alcohol poisoning vs. hangovers:

  • Alcohol poisoning (which can also be referred to as alcohol toxicity or alcohol overdose) is a direct result of having an overabundance of this substance in your system. Hangovers occur after heavy drinking, but they are actually a form of withdrawal. In other words, the pain of a hangover results from your body attempting to reestablish a sense of equilibrium after the alcohol leaves your body.
  • Common symptoms of hangovers are dehydration, headache, and upset stomach. As we will elaborate on in the next section, alcohol poisoning can involve much more severe symptoms, such as disorientation, loss of consciousness, and seizures. 
  • Hangovers can be painful, but they typically don’t last for very long, and they rarely pose a significant threat to your health. Alcohol poisoning, on the other hand, is an extremely dangerous development that can be fatal if not treated quickly and effectively

Warning Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning occurs when the amount of your drinking overwhelms your body’s ability to metabolize and eliminate the drug from your system.

The amount of alcohol that it takes to cause this phenomenon can vary depending on several factors, including your age, weight, gender, metabolism, and history of alcohol use. 

In general, the symptoms of alcohol poisoning will usually begin to set in when your blood alcohol content (BAC) is between 0.15%-0.30%. At a BAC of 0.30%-0.40%, you will likely be experiencing several or all of the symptoms listed below:

  • Confusion or disorientation
  • Severely impaired coordination
  • Significantly slurred speech
  • Delays in reflexes or other responses
  • Slow or labored breathing
  • Slow heart rate
  • Low body temperature
  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Bluish coloration of the skin, especially near the lips and fingertips
  • Vomiting
  • Incontinence (loss of bladder or bowel control)
  • Inability to remain conscious
  • Seizure

How to Respond to Alcohol Poisoning

Anyone who exhibits the signs of alcohol poisoning that we listed in the previous section may be in grave danger. If you’re with someone who is in this condition, don’t ignore the seriousness of the situation.

Here are some tips for how to respond:

  • Get help. Call 911 or otherwise summon an emergency first responder in your area.
  • Try to keep the person awake.
  • Stay with them.
  • Try to get them to drink water. However, if they have lost consciousness, don’t try to force water down into their mouth, as this could cause them to choke.
  • If they are conscious, get them into a seated position. If they are unconscious, roll them onto their side.
  • Don’t let them lie flat on their back. If they begin to vomit while they are prone, they could choke to death.
  • Try to keep them warm. Cover them with a blanket, or lay a sweater or jacket on them.
  • If they are even vaguely conscious, talk to them to explain what you are doing. This may prevent them from struggling against you.

Also, be honest with the first responders or medical personnel when they arrive. The more you can tell them about your friend (such as what poisoning symptoms they exhibited, how much alcohol they have consumed, how long they’d been drinking, and if they take medication or had been abusing other substances) the better they’ll be able to help.

Is Alcohol Poisoning a Symptom of Alcoholism?

Alcohol poisoning results from overconsumption. You don’t have to be addicted to alcohol to be at risk for this outcome; you simply need to drink more alcohol than your body can effectively process. 

However, people who have developed alcohol use disorder (alcoholism) may have an elevated risk of alcohol poisoning due to how often and how much they drink. If you believe that you might have become addicted to alcohol, ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Do you spend a lot of time thinking about, using, and recovering from alcohol?
  2. Have you missed school, work, or another important obligation because you had been drinking?
  3. Do you find that you need to drink more than you used to in order to feel the effects of alcohol?
  4. Have you begun to use alcohol in ways that you know are especially hazardous, such as by combining it with other substances or driving while under the influence?
  5. Have you continued to drink even after incurring harm (such as job loss, legal problems, or physical damage) as a result of prior use?
  6. Do you need alcohol to have fun, experience joy, or cope with stress?
  7. If you’re in a situation where you can’t drink, do you become agitated or irritated?
  8. If you’ve ever tried to cut down on your drinking, or attempted to quit completely, did you develop physical or psychological withdrawal symptoms?
  9. Has anyone who knows you suggested that you might have a problem with alcohol?
  10. Do you think you’re addicted to alcohol?

If you answered “yes” to some or all of the questions above, you should seriously consider scheduling an assessment with your doctor or another qualified healthcare provider. Once you have completed an examination and received an accurate diagnosis, you will be better prepared to evaluate your treatment options and find the care that best aligns with your needs and goals.

Find Alcohol Addiction Treatment in Georgia

Peachtree Recovery Solutions is a premier provider of life-affirming outpatient treatment for adults whose lives have been disrupted by addictions to alcohol and other substances.

Features of care at our alcohol addiction treatment center in Atlanta, Georgia, include a partial hospitalization program (PHP), an intensive outpatient program (IOP), an evening IOP, and gender-specific programming for men and women. All of these programs are staffed by experienced professionals who are committed to providing patient-centered services in a safe and respectful manner.

To learn more about how Peachtree Recovery Solutions can help you or a loved one, or to schedule a free assessment, please visit our Admissions page or call us today.