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Article Summary

Stages of Alcohol Intoxication

Alcoholism is defined as a chronic progressive degenerative disease resulting due to habitual intoxication, which occurs due to prolonged and uncontrolled intake of alcohol. The person develops a compulsive need to drink alcohol and excessive intake of alcohol beverages leads to several physical as well as psychological effects on health. Intoxication is a point at which alcohol depresses the central nervous system. Alcohol intoxication has varying degrees of dependence. Alcohol intoxication can be categorised in to seven stages.

When ingested, alcohol is rapidly absorbed in to the blood stream and distributed throughout the body. Even in low concentrations, the alcohol starts showing its effect on central nervous symptoms. As the concentration of alcohol in blood increases, inhibitions are reduced and motor-sensory coordination is impaired. In very higher concentrations, the person may go in to coma and die.

The amount of alcohol in your blood stream defines the stage of alcohol intoxication.

Stage one of Alcohol Intoxication

Subclinical phase- In this phase, Blood alcohol concentration (g per 100 ml of blood) ranges from 0.01 to 0.05.

It is called subclinical because the effects of alcohol are not obvious or clearly visible. When observed, the behavior of the alcohol drinker is nearly normal. However, the impairment can be detected with the help of special tests.

Stage two

Euphoria phase- Here, the Blood alcohol concentration falls in between 0.03 to 0.12.

This stage is called euphoria because it is during this stage that the person experiences mild euphoria and a feeling of pleasure. As the inhibitions are decreased in this stage, symptoms like excessive talkativeness, increased confidence levels and increased sociability are observed. As the alcohol diminishes the functioning of central nervous system, other signs and symptoms such as diminished attention span, impairment of sensory and motor coordination, slow processing of information and lack of efficiency, are observed. All these effects are mild, but fairly visible.

Stage three

Excitement stage- This stage is experienced when the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is between 0.09 and 0.25.

There is instability in emotions, impairment of perception, memory and comprehension, loss of judgement skills, lowered self-control, decreased sensory response and increased reaction time. In this stage, the effects are also observed on vision and speech, and there is reduced visual acuity and peripheral vision, slurred speech and slow glare recovery. Other effects of alcohol intoxication in this stage are impaired balance, disturbed sensory motor coordination, vomiting, nausea and drowsiness. The person becomes unusually passive or arguementative.

Stage four

Confusion phase- This phase is marked when the blood alcohol concentration ranges between 0.18 and 0.34.

In this phase, intellectual as well as psychological symptoms are enhanced. There is disorientation, mental confusion and exaggerated emotional states. At this level, the relaxed and euphoric state fades away, and the state of anxiety and restlessness begins to develop. The person may experience excessive grief, fear or phobia, rage and other emotions. The muscle incoordination is increased which leads to staggering gait or ataxia. There are disturbances in vision, change in perception and vertigo. The person may experience lethargy and apathy towards everything. There is deterioration in personal hygiene or appearance.

Stage five

Stupor phase- Here, the BAC is from 0.25 to 0.40.

This stage is characterized by decreased response to stimuli, marked muscle incoordination, urine or stool incontinence and gradual loss of motor functions. The person has impaired consciousness and goes in to a state of stupor.

There is loss of memory, and the drinker is unable to recall certain events or names.

Stage six

Coma phase- The blood alcohol concentration in this stage is from 0.35 to 0.50.

When the BAC reaches up to the above mentioned level, the person goes in to a state of complete unconsciousness or coma. The reflexes are completely depressed and there is severe impairment in respiration and circulation. The body temperature is low and the skin is cold and clammy.

Stage seven

Death- When the BAC exceeds 0.45, the person dies due to cardiac arrest.

The effects of alcohol vary from one person to another. There are several factors that account for this variation. These factors also affect the signs and symptoms that the person may exhibit to indicate alcohol intoxication. Some of the major factors accounting for this variation are prior experience with alcohol, existing medical conditions, taking medications and blood alcohol concentration.

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