Drunkenness

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Alcohol intoxication (also known as drunkenness or inebriation) is a physiological state that occurs when a person has a high level of ethanol (alcohol) in their blood. Common symptoms of alcohol intoxication include slurred speech, euphoria, impaired balance, loss of muscle coordination (ataxia), flushed face, reddened eyes, reduced inhibition, and erratic behavior. In severe cases, it can cause coma or death.

Toxicologists use the term “alcohol intoxication” to discriminate between alcohol and other toxins.

Acute alcohol intoxication results from a very high level of alcohol in the blood. This term is used by health care providers, often in emergencies.

Contents

Alcohol poisoning (acute alcohol intoxication)

Alcohol poisoning is an acute and life-threatening condition that requires emergency medical attention. The signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:

  • confusion
  • vomiting
  • dangerous anger
  • seizures (fits)
  • slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths a minute)
  • pale, bluish skin
  • cold and clammy skin[1]

Emergency treatment for acute alcohol intoxication strives to stabilize the patient and maintain a patent airway and respiration, while waiting for the alcohol to metabolize:[2] Also:

  • Protect vital signs by monitoring ABCs, or Airway, Breathing, and Circulation, ie., if the person is thought to be at risk for severe respiratory depression, consider an Endotracheal tube to protect the airway and assist with breathing.
  • Protect the airway from aspirating stomach contents that could cause aspiration pneumonia.
  • Treat Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) with 50ml of 50% dextrose solution and saline flush, as ethanol induced hypoglycaemia is unresponsive to glucagon.
  • Administer the vitamin thiamine, to prevent Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, which can cause a seizure (more usually a treatment for chronic alcoholism, but in the acute context usually co-administered to ensure maximal benefit).
  • Check urea and electrolytes to guide fluid replacement.
  • Apply Haemodialysis if the blood concentration is dangerously high (>400 mg%), and especially if there is metabolic acidosis.
  • Provide oxygen therapy as needed via nasal cannula or non-rebreather mask.

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