Alcohol is a unique drug with a great potential of being abused. It is legal and culturally acceptable in most societies and therefore it is consumed indiscriminately in parties, clubs, at home or even at social gathering. Alcohol can be lethal causing acute and chronic toxic; it confers health benefits to individuals when used moderately. It is worth mentioning that most medical morbidities associated with acute intoxication are not the direct effect of alcohol but of secondary injuries. Alcohol intoxication affects the body by causing changes in behavior and cognition.
Ethanol is the most frequently used and abused intoxicant in the United States and most other societies. Nearly three-quarters of adult Americans consume at least one alcoholic drink each year. Beer ranks as the fourth most popular beverage in terms of volume consumed, after soft drinks, milk, and coffee. Distilled spirits typically contain ethanol volumes of 40 to 50 percent (80 to 100 proof), although brands with volumes of 75 percent or more exist. Wines have an ethanol volume of 10 to 20 percent, while beers range from 2 to 6 percent. One drink is considered to be 0.5 oz or 15 g of alcohol, which is equivalent to 12 oz (355ml) of beer, 5 oz (148ml) of wine, or 1.5 oz (44ml) of 80 proof spirits. Ethanol is also a constituent of mouthwashes (up to 75 percent volume), colognes (40 to 60 percent), and medicinal preparations (0.4 to 65 percent).
First aid treatment of alcohol intoxication is medical emergency and patients should be managed effectively to prevent death from choking and central nervous system depression.
Symptoms of alcohol toxicity
- Alcohol fetor/ breathe
- Anorexia, nausea and vomiting
- Irritability, confusion and nervousness
- Slowed breath and irregular breathing from the suppression of the central nervous system by alcohol
- Dis-inhibited behavior
- Lowering of blood pressure or even hypotension
- Mumbling speech or incoherent speech, slurred speech
- Poor judgment and mental clouding
Alcohol Intoxication First Aid Treatment
- The first step is to remove the patient from the source of alcohol to prevent further consumption and intoxication. Get the victim to a safe and quiet place
- Tap the patient to quickly access his/ her level of consciousness
- If patient was involved in an accident e.g. road traffic accident, ensure that you get the patient to safety if possible, check for bleeding, fractures and other injuries.
- If the patient is unconscious, quickly inspect the mouth for vomits or foreign body because alcohol suppresses the gag reflex making them prone to aspiration of their vomit which can lead to choking, aspiration pneumonia and death. Quickly clean the mouth and place them in the recovery position
- In a patient who is actively vomiting, sit him/her up to prevent aspiration of vomit
- Remove all tight fitted clothes
- Ensure that you check the patients breathing every 15 minutes and perform CPR if in respiratory distress. First aid treatment of alcohol intoxication when associated with injuries should be treated as any other emergency
- Temperature control is another important component of first aid of alcohol intoxication. Victims should be covered using blankets to prevent hypothermia
- Call 911 or the emergency number that is applicable to the region
Expert treatment of the patient at the hospital usually includes the following:
- Monitoring and assessment of the mental status of the patient
- Oxygen treatment using face mask of nasal catheters. Alcohol depresses the respiratory centers in the brain.
- Intravenous administration of fluid to treat dehydration and electrolyte derangements from excessive vomiting
- Nutritional rehabilitation
- Alcohol intoxication is usually accompanied with retching and Mallory Weiss tear leading to massive bleeding from the lower part of the esophagus. This is treated with blood transfusion.
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