What Is A Lethal Dose Of Alcohol?

Medically Reviewed by Johnelle Smith, M.D on July 13, 2021

Alcohol is a central nervous system depressant that’s processed through the liver. If a person consumes a large quantity of alcohol, overdose and death can occur.

What Is The Lethal Dose Of Alcohol?

Blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of 0.31% to 0.45% are considered life-threatening. The lethal dose of alcohol is about 5 to 8 grams per kilogram (g/kg).

That amount of alcohol is equal to about four bottles of wine or 30 standard drinks.

BAC refers to the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. If a person has a 0.20% BAC, that means the blood contains two parts of alcohol per 2,000 parts blood.

The legal intoxication level of alcohol is 0.08% BAC.

Learn more about the lethal dose of commonly abused drugs

How The Lethal Dose Of Alcohol Is Determined

Alcohol is classified as a central nervous system depressant that slows down vital functions of the body.

If a person consumes a few drinks and has BAC levels between 0.05% and 0.15%, this will likely result in impairments such as slurred speech, memory loss, and poor driving skills.

However, the more a person drinks, the higher the alcohol content is in the body, and the more severe these impairments and side effects get.

If someone reaches BAC levels closer to the 0.31% to 0.45% range, they may lose consciousness, overdose, and suffer from vital organ failures.

What Causes An Alcohol Overdose?

Alcohol is filtered through the liver with enzymes in the liver cells called alcohol dehydrogenase (ADH), which breaks down the alcohol.

But alcohol is processed very slowly compared to food. When a person drinks a large amount of alcohol at once, the body is unable to metabolize it at the rate it’s being consumed.

This causes the BAC to rise as alcohol is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream.

Alcohol then has a number of effects on the body, such as an increased heart rate, impairment of breathing, loss of consciousness, and more.

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Recognizing The Signs Of Alcohol Poisoning

When a person overdoses on alcohol this is called alcohol poisoning.

Here are a few warning signs to pay attention to:

  • loss of consciousness
  • dehydration
  • hypothermia, recognizable through pale or blue-colored skin
  • seizures
  • vomiting
  • irregular or slow breathing
  • confusion

If you notice any of the above symptoms, seek medical attention right away. Alcohol poisoning is not always fatal and can be treated in an emergency setting.

In the hospital, alcohol poisoning can be treated through intubation to open up the airways, an IV drip, and stomach pumping to remove the contents of the stomach.

Reach Out Today To Get Help For Alcohol Addiction

There’s never a wrong time to get help. We’re here to connect you to a specialist or treatment center who can help treat alcohol addiction.

Give our helpline a call to speak with a representative who cares. We’ll help you to locate a program that’s a good fit for you or your loved one.

This page does not provide medical advice. See more

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Medically Reviewed by
Johnelle Smith, M.D on July 13, 2021
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