Teenage Alcohol Poisoning: Teens are Far More Susceptible than Adults

A young girl holding an alcohol bottle passed out from underage drinking.
A young girl holding an alcohol bottle passed out from underage drinking.

Teens are more likely to participate in underage drinking than any other type of substance misuse. Though they’re trying to act grown-up, teens’ bodies process alcohol differently than adults’, which can quickly lead to alcohol poisoning. In fact, the way in which teens process alcohol makes them more likely to binge drink than adults. The sobering fact is that teens are at risk every time they drink alcohol. These are the facts that parents, and their children, need to know about teenage alcohol poisoning and how they can stay safe.

Facts About Underage Binge Drinking

Alcohol can be very dangerous when a person gulps down several drinks over a short period of time. On average, the human liver takes about one hour to metabolize one alcoholic drink. While playing drinking games, doing shots, or chugging drinks, a teen could consume four to five drinks or more in just one hour, which may lead to alcohol poisoning.

Here are a few underage drinking facts to consider:

  • 5.7 percent of 7th-graders and 12.4 percent of 8th-graders reported binge drinking (5+ drinks per occasion) in the past 30 days
  • 1 in 6 teens binge drinks, yet only 1 in 100 parents believe his or her teen binge drinks.
  • Younger teens and pre-teens who binge drink risk alcohol use disorder and addiction later in life, as well as prolonged depression.

As we mentioned above, alcohol affects teens in a very different way than from adults. For example, teens become less sedated than adults when drinking alcohol. As a result, teens are more likely to drink more alcohol in a shorter period of time, increasing their risk of alcohol poisoning. This is particularly dangerous in the long run as alcohol can also damage the areas of the brain associated with memory and learning.

What is Alcohol Poisoning?

Alcohol poisoning is a serious and potentially deadly effect of binge drinking. As you drink more, your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level rises and the liver has trouble continuing to process the alcohol. Even when someone stops drinking or passes out, their BAC level will rise because alcohol in the stomach continues to enter the bloodstream.

Too much alcohol in the bloodstream can lead to areas of the brain that control basic life-support functions to start shutting down, and that can negatively affect breathing, heart rate, and regulating body temperature.

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

The most common signs of alcohol poisoning include vomiting, seizures and cold or clammy skin. Effects of alcohol are different on each person, depending on their age, gender, tolerance for alcohol, the amount of food eaten and any medications they’re taking. Do not assume the person will be fine by sleeping it off.

Call 911 immediately and do not leave the person alone if they have consumed a large amount of alcohol and show the following signs:

  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Severe Mental Confusion
  • Difficulties Breathing
  • Bluish Tinge to the Skin
  • Low Body Temperature
  • Loss of Consciousness
  • Inability to Wake

Stop Underage Drinking Before Tragedy Strikes

Studies suggest that kids who report close relationships with their parents and openly discuss the effects of underage drinking are less likely to start drinking alcohol. Talk It Out helps parents begin the important conversation with a teen about the dangers of alcohol use, binge drinking and alcohol poisoning. Take the Pledge to stop underage drinking with the whole family to keep kids safe and parents informed.