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People commonly drink alcohol at a party or an event.

Drunkenness means being intoxicated by alcohol. This means a person's brain and body are not working normally, because of the alcohol they have had. A person who is intoxicated is usually called drunk.

The effects of being drunk depend on how much alcohol a person has had to drink.[1]

Alcohol causes the mind and body to not work normally.

In low amounts, alcohol often causes good feelings, reddened skin, and feeling relaxed. People who drink small amounts of alcohol may feel less nervous about being around others. Even in small amounts, alcohol slows down the brain. Alcohol interferes with normal brain communication and changes a person’s behavior and mood. The ability to think clearly is often inhibited. Consuming larger amounts of alcohol can drastically affect motor functions via its effects on the brain. Commonly seen effects on the brain and the rest of the central nervous system (CNS) include slurred speech and issues with coordination. It starts to affect a person's judgment - their ability to make good decisions. It also makes a person react more slowly and have slower reflexes. This is why it is not safe to drive even after drinking just a little.[1][2]

In medium amounts, alcohol will cause trouble speaking clearly and moving the body normally. A person may have trouble staying balanced and walking normally. They may get confused or very tired. They will not be able to make good decisions. They may also start vomiting.[1][2]

When a person drinks a dangerous amount of alcohol, they can get alcohol poisoning.[3][4]

Alcohol poisoning

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Alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency. "Alcohol poisoning" means that a person has drunk enough alcohol to cause a coma, dangerously slow breathing, or even death.[5] A person with alcohol poisoning needs emergency medical treatment at a hospital to make sure they do not die from alcohol poisoning.[3]

Signs and symptoms

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Here are some of the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning:[6][3]

First aid

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When a person has alcohol poisoning, 9-1-1 or another local emergency telephone number should be called right away.[3] First aid can help the person until an ambulance gets there.[7][6]

Laying a person on their side can keep them from choking if they vomit

A first aider SHOULD:[8][7]

  • Lay the person down and try to keep them still
  • Turn the person on their side
  • Cover them with a blanket to keep them warm
  • If the person has a seizure, do not try to hold them still. Try to keep them from injuring themselves. Note that people having a seizure cannot control their movements, and their reflexes do not work.
  • If the person's heart stops, start cardiopulmonary resuscitation. An emergency medical dispatcher can explain how to do this

A first aider should NOT:[8][7][6]

  • Leave the person alone
  • Give them anything to eat or drink
  • Give the person any medications or illegal drugs
  • Make them throw up
  • Put the person in a cold shower or bath
  • Make the person walk. Walking is not safe for a person with alcohol poisoning


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Paramedics and hospitals can treat alcohol poisoning by:[8][9]

There are many myths (untrue beliefs) about drunkenness. Here are some examples of myths about drunkenness:[10]

  • Some people can drive safely while they are drunk
  • Drinking coffee will make a person less drunk
  • Taking a cold shower or bath will make a person less drunk
  • Some types of alcohol make a person more drunk than others
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  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 "Effects of Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC)". National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Division of Unintentional Injury Prevention. United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. August 17, 2015. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "Short- and Long-Term Effects". State of California – Administrative Office of the Courts. 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 "Alcohol Poisoning: Symptoms". Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. December 5, 2014. Archived from the original on February 28, 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  4. "Sober Living - Alcohol de-addiction". Greenhouse Treatment Center. Retrieved 2020-11-17.
  5. September 23, Sarah Hardey. "Rehab Insurance - Health Insurance Coverage for Addiction Treatment". American Addiction Centers. Retrieved 2020-11-17.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: numeric names: authors list (link)
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Facts About Alcohol Poisoning". CollegeDrinkingPrevention.gov. United States National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Archived from the original on October 12, 2011. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Alcohol Poisoning". Student Wellness Center. The University of Texas at Dallas. Archived from the original on March 23, 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Curtis, Rick. "First Aider's Guide to Alcohol". Outdoor Action. Princeton University. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  9. "Alcohol Poisoning: Treatments and Drugs". Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. December 5, 2014. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  10. "Myths About Alcohol". Student Wellness Center. University of Cincinnati. Retrieved February 25, 2016.