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Alcohol Intoxication

Medically reviewed by Last updated on May 1, 2023.

What is alcohol intoxication?

Alcohol intoxication is a harmful physical condition caused when you drink more alcohol than your body can handle. It is also called ethanol poisoning, or being drunk.

What do I need to know about recommended alcohol limits?

  • Men 21 to 64 years should limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day. Do not have more than 4 drinks in 1 day or more than 14 in 1 week.
  • All women, and men 65 or older should limit alcohol to 1 drink in a day. Do not have more than 3 drinks in 1 day or more than 7 in 1 week. No amount of alcohol is okay during pregnancy.

What are common signs and symptoms of alcohol intoxication?

  • Breath that smells like alcohol
  • Blackouts or seizures
  • Enlarged pupils, or eye movements that are faster than normal for you
  • Fast heartbeat and slow breaths
  • Loss of balance, or no ability to walk straight or stand still
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Slurred or loud speech
  • Quick mood changes
  • Trouble at work or school, or risky behavior, such as unprotected sex or driving while intoxicated

How is alcohol intoxication treated?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your use of alcohol. These questions may include how much, how often, and what kind of alcohol you drink. He or she may test your memory. Blood or urine samples may be tested for alcohol and for signs of liver, kidney, or heart damage. Treatment may include any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to help you stay calm, control seizures, or prevent nausea and vomiting. You may also be given glucose or vitamin B1 if your levels are too low.
  • In brief intervention therapy, a healthcare provider helps you think about your alcohol use differently. He or she helps you set goals to decrease the amount of alcohol you drink. Therapy may continue after you leave the hospital.
  • Extra oxygen may be given if you are so intoxicated that you cannot breathe well on your own.

Where can I find more information?

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
    Web Address:
  • Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
    PO Box 2345
    Rockville , MD 20847-2345
    Web Address:

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) if:

  • You have sudden trouble breathing or chest pain.
  • You have a seizure.
  • You feel sad enough to harm yourself or others.

When should I call my doctor?

  • You have hallucinations (you see or hear things that are not real).
  • You cannot stop vomiting.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your healthcare providers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© Copyright Merative 2023 Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes.

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Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.