The Truth About Teen Alcohol Poisoning
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When teens choose to drink, they may not realize that their bodies process alcohol much differently than adults. This can lead to alcohol poisoning if they drink more than their bodies can handle. Teen alcohol poisoning is a serious problem that can lead to many dangerous consequences. Knowing the causes of underage alcohol poisoning and the dangers can help you to educate your teen and try to prevent them from making bad choices.

Causes of Teen Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning occurs when you drink faster than your body can filter the alcohol out of your blood. [1] As a person continues to drink, their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level rises, and the liver has problems processing alcohol. Even when they stop drinking or pass out as a result, their BAC will still rise because alcohol in the stomach will continue to enter the bloodstream. When there is too much alcohol in the bloodstream, areas of the brain that control important life functions can begin to shut down.

Binge drinking typically causes alcohol poisoning. It is generally defined as having 5 or more drinks in a row for males and 4 or more drinks in a row for females at least once within a 2-week timeframe.[2] This type of alcohol consumption is prevalent among teens, with one 2021 survey unveiling that 3.2 million people ages 12 to 20 reported binge drinking within a period of one month.[3]

The Truth About Teen Alcohol Poisoning

Binge drinking is especially dangerous for teens because their brains have not stopped developing. Consuming too much alcohol can lead to mental, emotional,  and behavioral problems, as we’ll learn more about later on.

Symptoms of Teen Alcohol Poisoning

When a teen has consumed too much alcohol, their body can react violently. Several symptoms of alcohol poisoning can include:

  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Cold or clammy skin
  • Confusion
  • Sleepiness

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If someone has been drinking heavily and presents any of the above symptoms, it’s important not to leave them alone. Their symptoms could worsen. Call 911 right away if you notice any of these symptoms as well:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Low body temperature
  • Bluish skin
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Inability to wake up
  • Severe mental confusion

When there is a case of teen alcohol poisoning, a trip to the hospital is necessary. The patient will need to be monitored to make sure there are no serious complications. Fluids may also be given intravenously. Sometimes, patients also receive help breathing while the effects of the alcohol wear off.[2]

The Dangers of Teen Alcohol Poisoning

Brain Development Issues

When a teenager binge drinks and gets alcohol poisoning, the effects can be much worse than vomiting and feeling hungover the next day. Many teens don’t realize that at their age, their brains are not fully developed. Brain development continues until age 25. Most brain growth occurs between the ages of 12 and 17. So, when teens consume too much alcohol, it can lead to permanent changes in their brains and lead to cognitive difficulties.

Memory Problems

Studies have shown that when adolescent brains are exposed to periods of binge drinking, it can affect the parts of the brain tied to memory and learning.[4] The neurons in this part of the brain are also more vulnerable to additional damage.

Behavioral Issues

When there are persistent changes to the brain brought on by binge drinking, there can also be behavioral issues as well. The changes in the brain can also put teens at risk for ongoing alcohol abuse. This can lead to other health problems later in life. As you can tell, teen alcohol poisoning creates a domino effect of health problems.

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Impaired Judgment

Besides health problems, underage alcohol poisoning can also lead to impaired judgment. When too much alcohol is consumed, teens may make dangerous decisions. This can lead to car accidents, sexual assault, and other life-threatening situations.

When teens are under the influence, poor-decision making skills may not only harm themselves but also others. It can put them in situations they would normally not be in if they were sober.

How to Prevent Teen Alcohol Poisoning

The best way to prevent teen alcohol poisoning is to take steps to prevent binge drinking. This includes talking to them about the dangers and the consequences. Also, help them set goals so that they know what is at stake if they drink too much and get alcohol poisoning. Knowing what can be lost can be an incentive to stay on track.

Being a role model for your teen is also important when it comes to drinking. Not consuming too much alcohol will show them that it is not something that should be done. If your teen can see you acting responsibly when it comes to alcohol, hopefully, they will do the same.

Seek Help for Your Teen at Ember Recovery

If your child does have a substance abuse problem that involves alcohol, let the team at Ember Recovery help. We specialize in helping teens get on the path to sobriety. Since we only treat teens, we can focus on their specific needs.

In our programs, teens are with their peers who are going through similar situations. They have a constant support system as well as a team of professionals who are there 24/7.

Besides residential programs for boys and girls, we also offer detox referrals and dual diagnosis treatment. Reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help your teen start their road to sobriety today.