Recovering From Alcohol Poisoning: How Is It Different Than A Hangover?

Man suffering from alcohol poisoning

It’s essential to understand the difference between alcohol poisoning and a bad hangover. A night of drinking too much can make you feel sick in the morning; the more alcohol you drink, the stronger the hangover will be. Symptoms are often mild but can be intense enough to feel like alcohol withdrawal. It’s also important to know how to recover from alcohol poisoning.

The Difference Between A Hangover And Alcohol Poisoning

A hangover is the body’s natural response to overcoming toxins. Alcohol poisoning is a very different health event that requires rapid intervention. If you feel sick when you wake up in the morning after drinking the night before, you have a hangover.

What Does A Hangover Feel Like?

Hangovers aren’t a threat to your life, no matter how bad it feels when you wake up. The body attempts to shed the alcoholic toxins from the body, and your feeling sick is a byproduct of this process. 

The toxins in your bloodstream impact both the mind and body; after all, you were drinking but, as your blood alcohol level drops, you are dehydrated and suffer from mild withdrawal symptoms. 

Symptoms Of Hangovers

What does a hangover feel like? Symptoms can include any of the following: 

  • Headache 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Muscle aches 
  • Sensitivity to lights and sound 
  • Excessive thirst 
  • Dry mouth 
  • Fatigue 
  • Sleep difficulties 
  • Mental confusion 
  • Dizziness 
  • Feeling shaky 
  • Trembling 
  • Feeling anxiety 

Alcohol abuse can cause the body to react in several ways, such as dehydration, expansion of blood vessels, inflammatory response, decreased blood sugar, and irritation of the stomach lining. Together, these responses cause a hangover’s physical symptoms. 

Treating A Hangover

Though there isn’t a single “cure” that relieves all hangovers, there are some things you can do to treat the symptoms. 

First and foremost, drink plenty of water and Gatorade to rehydrate yourself and replace lost electrolytes. If you can eat, protein and high carbs will help. In a pinch, over-the-counter meds can relieve muscle aches and stomach distress. Ultimately, all hangovers succumb to time. 

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning happens while you’re still drinking heavily. It usually occurs when someone consumes a large amount of alcohol during a short period, especially with binge drinking. Chasing alcohol with more alcohol creates a more considerable buildup of toxins in the bloodstream, and the body can’t handle it; the burden overwhelms the liver. 

Symptoms Of Alcohol Poisoning 

Alcohol poisoning can present in the following ways: 

  • Slowed or irregular breathing 
  • Low body temperature and chills 
  • Profuse vomiting 
  • Mental confusion or stupor 
  • Increased heart rate 
  • Pale skin or blue fingertips 
  • Unconsciousness 
  • Seizures 

How does alcohol poisoning kill you? The greatest danger with alcohol poisoning is losing the gag reflex; a person is at an elevated risk of choking on or aspirating vomit. That’s why knowing how to recover from alcohol poisoning can be a matter of life and death.

Recovering From Alcohol Poisoning

In New Jersey, it’s estimated that 16.7 percent of adults participate in binge drinking. According to the CDC, there is an average of six deaths related to alcohol poisoning each day.

Health-wise, being hungover for a night isn’t a concern, even though it often feels severe. Hangovers go away on their own over time. 

Alcohol poisoning, on the other hand, is a severe medical condition that requires medical intervention. 

Treating Alcohol Poisoning

If you believe someone has alcohol poisoning, call an ambulance and try to assist before they arrive: 

  • Try to keep the person awake 
  • Attempt to keep the person in a sitting position. If they must lay down, turn their head. 
  • Give the person water if they can handle it 
  • Check if an unconscious person is still breathing and put them into the recovery position 
  • Do not let them lay on their back 
  • Do not give them coffee; caffeine makes the dehydration worse 
  • Do not force the person to walk somewhere 
  • Never give them more alcohol 

Recovering From Alcohol Poisoning

At the hospital, the medical staff may simply monitor the patient depending on the severity of symptoms and how high their BAC level is. For more severe symptoms, other treatments can include: 

  • A urinary catheter to treat incontinence 
  • An intravenous drip to hydrate and manage blood glucose 
  • A tube in the windpipe to assist breathing 

What Causes Alcohol Poisoning?

When someone drinks alcohol, their liver is responsible for filtering the toxin from the bloodstream. Alcohol enters our system faster than food does, but the liver can only process alcohol so quickly; it can manage approximately one standard drink per hour.

Drinking two standard drinks within an hour means having an extra dose of alcohol in your blood. If you drink another two glasses in the following hour, then you’ll have two drinks’ worth of toxins in your blood.

Seeking Professional Help

It’s usually easy to tell when someone has been drinking alcohol; they experience uncoordinated movements, slurred speech, and breath that smells like what they’ve been drinking. However, identifying addiction is often not so black and white.

Someone with alcohol use disorder (AUD) may be capable of hiding the more obvious addiction symptoms for a long time. Not only that, but the people around them might ignore the problem they notice. 

Diagnosing Alcohol Use Disorder

There isn’t one straightforward test that leads to an AUD diagnosis. Instead, the diagnosis follows after excluding a range of other health or behavioral problems. Some doctors may use questionnaires to reach a more informed conclusion about their suspicions. 

Friends and family members may also be asked questions to help pinpoint addiction. Knowing all of this information helps the doctor develop a course of treatment that is most likely to help a person’s specific circumstances. 

Outpatient Care

Outpatient rehab helps people with AUD overcome dangerous behaviors. Many programs meet daily for the first few months before decreasing obligations based on an individual’s progress. 

The three most common kinds of outpatient programs are day treatment, intensive outpatient, and continuing care. Depending on a person’s needs, they may start with one program and transition to another after completing it. Medication-assisted treatment may even be provided if necessary to help with recovery. There are several medications that help people recover from alcohol abuse.

Day Treatment

Day treatment is the most intensive outpatient solution. Clients meet up to seven days per week and participate in half-or full-day structured programs. This schedule can include support groups, counseling, medication detox, and other forms of therapies. At the end of the day, clients get to return home to their families. 

Intensive Outpatient Program

Intensive Outpatient Programs (IOP) are more flexible, offering meeting times either in the day or night, making them perfect for people who must work or have other scheduled commitments. Like with day treatment, intensive outpatient programs start with frequent meetings. Over time, there are fewer meetings to attend.

Continuing Care

Typically the final step, continuing care groups help attendants maintain sobriety without the help of structured programs. Meetings usually meet for about an hour or two once per week. 

 Recovering From Alcohol Poisoning: Lifetime Recovery Can Help 

At Lifetime Recovery, our purpose-built outpatient and detox centers help New Jersey residents recover from addiction through healing and restoration. Our expert staff uses evidence-based interventions to treat clients struggling with alcohol use disorder. Contact us today to learn more.

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Our behavioral health and substance abuse treatment experts also treat co-occurring disorders/dual diagnoses (including trauma), and we are one of the few alcohol and drug rehab centers offering gambling addiction treatment.