brain damage from alcohol poisoning
by Scott41, Oct 04, 2007
I am wondering about brain damage resulting from isolated heavy drinking nights.  I have read that if you drink a ridiculous amount and narrowly escape death you may have irreversibly damaged your brain.  I can't find anywhere on the internet information about this that could help me figure out whether I have brain damage from alcohol.  The other night I drank a fifth of 70 proof liquor in no more than 4 hours, though I can't be certain about how long it took me because I don't remember anything after I had taken the water level in the bottle down about 4 inches.  I weigh 165 pounds.  I blacked out quickly and the next thing I knew I was in my bed the next day with a little bit of vomit on my pillow and sheets.  I was conscious enough to navigate my driver to my home, which was after I finished off the bottle, and I threw up in the car on the way home.  And people said that had a good time with me that night so I don't think I was lying down in the corner unconscious.  I have a weak stomach and I have always considered that my safety net from alcohol poisoning.  I always thought that I would start throwing up long before alcohol poisoning could even become an issue, since throwing up would make me stop drinking that night.  But in my reading, I have learned that drinking hard liquor really quickly can actually dangerously slow down your gag reflexes so you aren't guaranteed to throw up efficiently.  I have never been one to drink very often.... I have never had addiction... but sometimes, with the right type of liquor, I just end up drinking it too fast, maybe because I don't give my body enough time to absorb it before drinking more, and my decision making process is a little messed up when I'm drinking liquor, to say the least.  The night I just described is an example of one of only a handful of major blackout nights I have had in my life.  I'm 23 years old.  In fact, the night I just described might even be the closest I have ever come to alcohol poisoning, based on how much I drank and how fast.  My hangover wasn't terrible since I slept through much of the next day.  I didn't throw up at all after I woke up.  I usually throw up when I'm hungover.  My concern is not alcoholism, or the sort of brain damage that results from a long drinking history.... my concern is with the type of brain damage that can occur when you drink too much just one time.  I have read that when you have a high enough BAL you don't take enough breaths and starve your brain of oxygen.... I don't know if I have done that.  I have always seemed to recover fine from my black out nights... certainly no symptoms of any "brain damage."  But then again, what would be symptoms of brain damage?  All I can find on the internet about this matter is:  "alcohol poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage."  Nothing more.  How exactly does lack of oxygen damage the brain?  what part of the brain does it damage?  And what would a person who got brain damage be like afterwards?  Would they have a different personality?  Would they be slower witted?  I just really want to know the likelihood of me having a damged brain, even if it's just a little tiny bit of damage.  I certainly don't feel like I have a damaged brain, but if you ask me if I have ever had alcohol poisining... I would have to say that yes I probably have.
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Member Comments (15)
by CarolinaGuy, Feb 19, 2008
I just came across this today Feb. 19, 2008, I am 32, a husband and a father of an awesome 4 yr old and I'd like to share my story.  Two years ago, Jan 30th 2006, I was out drinking with a family member, vodka and champagne mixture.  Like yourself I ended up drinking WAY too much.  I was not an alcoholic, but a casual daily drinker, 1-2 drinks a day, with occasion excessive binges.  On this night, something went very wrong.  After consuming close to 3-4 of the red solo cups half filled with vodka and half filled with champagne, I was VERY drunk in a VERY short period of time.  My wife said my head fell back twice in the car on the way home as if I passed out, and she was afraid I might fall or not be able to stand.  I believe I am only still alive because God is merciful and I weighed 420lbs at the time, which maybe helped to absorb some of the alcohol. . . .BUT that still did not keep it from having to pass through my brain tissue.  After watching me lick the hotel wall for no appearent reason, she somehow, she put me in the chair in the hotel room and I slept there most likely with very little oxygen (hypoxic) as I had sleep apnea.  I woke the next morning, ate breakfast (a banana) just fine, and then went over to her family's house again and we ate lunch (heavy meal) and then things began to change.  I suddenly felt shortwinded, my heart started to beat irraticlty, and I felt fainty.  I went to emergency room and blood pressure was up to 190ish over 100+, I was cold and shaking all over (neuro?) I felt like I was running a marathon and I was breathing as such.
This was a small town hospital so they did a few things, but I don't think I got a comprehensive exam but they did do an EKG, arterial blood gas, and checked enzymes for heart attack, all were normal.  Only thing they could find was I was severely dehydrated and my electrolytes were off.  I was given lots of fluids and potassium via IV.  They kept me overnight for a CT scan of my    ?  Again no mention of alcohol poisoning or the resulting dehydration (alcohol is a diuretic).  They put me on medication to control my blood pressure and a cholesterol pill (my cholesterol has always been fine) and let me go.
I got in the car and started riding back to my home state but 1 hour later as we got into Atlanta, I began to feel fainty and short of breath again.  Checked into Emory and underwent extensive heart tests (no neuro), all checked out fine, left the next day.  When I got home, told my Dr the whole story, he said he was debating on putting me on BP meds, tossed out the cholesterol drug, and questioned the potassium given.  Here is the point of my post, days after this incident, I began to develop what the neurologist described as benigh fasciculations (all over) and also tinnitus.  I still suffer from them right now.  I also had what felt like trembles in my back and neck muscles. Coincident?  Not likely.  Something affected my nervous system during that period. (I did suffer from numbness in the peronial nerve and my toes before, but I don't think its related)  To answer your question, I do believe up to this day that I suffered a small amount of brain damage that night because it was so much, so fast.  I still research what happened to me and how they are linked a lot and thats how I came across your post.  I have since given up drinking at all, have lost some weight and I encourage family, friends and others when possible that its just not worth the health cost (it almost killed me that day), the lives lost (drunk driving), and the pain and emotional issues it put on me, my wife and my son.  God gave me another chance so I am trying to make the most of it.  If you do by chance decide to continue to drink, please don't binge. . .don't binge on anything for that matter.  Life is precious and I am now grateful for mine.
by kitlyn, Feb 21, 2008
Hi: I will tell you my story of drinking will make it brief as poss.F/ used to weigh about 150 , but since am donw to 127. I have been drinking since age 19. I never drank every day. As the yrs went by i would binge drink on  one night as a weekend and then that was it for a week or so. I know that the binge drinking  is extrmely bad. I was a poster here, but in 2006 i got extremely ill, very suddenly, neve rhad any headaches, major, no migraines or anything that was serious by way of health, I decided to stop drinking on the weekends, some night out one night, i could easily drink 15 drinks, vodka mixed , and i wa salways fine. However on one ocaison i wasn;t , and it wa sa rarity. I was out drinking w  afreind, he may have given me too much vodka, but i ended up the next day in the intensive care unit a tthe hosp, i wa sshocked , I couldn;t breath well and i had a blood alcohol level of 3.7 or so. ER doc said your lucky to be here werre you trying to kill yourself?? i didn;t have any brain damage, or trouble after. However, my point, i got very ill in 2006 , severe weakness etc, thought i was havinga  stroke, i wasn;t but afterwards, i also had severe severe head presssrure,  , you can view older posts on my here, about that , w  neuro .  trouble. They found twolesions on my brain, both sides, it led me into a yr of H and severe weakness. They still dont know what inflammed my brain, im atypical they say. I did tell, MS specialist about my heavy drinkking, and he said that yes soemtimes things can happen. My point, the alcohol is very dangerous, although legal  its very toxic, and everyone should heed both of our stories of it, and drinking. I have not been able to drink for fear of symptoms reoccuring as i am not well now and afriad to drink, i do miss it, but afraid to drink now ever. I think i almost killed myself w the heavy night out w it,. many times.  Peace, and hope this story helps someone who still drinks, Iam not a AA protestor, just someone that doesn;t drink now.  Kit
by Vitruvius, Dec 23, 2008
I don't have an outragious story, neither do i really drink any more than those around me, but i have questions of my own as a 18 year old male. Through high school i was always really against drinking, never ever thought of touching the stuff up till junior year. That summer i was unfamiliar with the substance, my parents don't drink my sisters only drank once in a while, but that summer i went on trips to over seas with friends and got drunk a fair amount of times off of hard liquor. When i say a fair amount i mean probably 10 times or so. After that i took it easy, no drinking, no nothing, for 6 months. Then one night during Christmas break i got really really drunk off vodka. I had around 6 shots in 30 minutes and was left puking my brains out, i made it home later that night only to put my head in a toilet for an hour just dry spuing.(I was 17 when this happened and weighed 140 pounds and very healthy) I didn't go to the hospital but my mom said that she did think that when she say me that i had alcohol poisening. After that i never drank agian My question is, from that night, is there any long term effects on my brain, I don't feel any different but from time to time ill think "what if i damaged my brain in some way and since my brain isn't done developing will i not reach my full potention as if i might have if i never drank. I don't want to go through life feeling inferior to some people because i got really drunk once. If some one could give me some guidence that would be really great since the little alcohol info online i cant help to discard it as propaganda.

So to sum it up
Go Drunk once off of hard liquor(bacardi), close to alcohol poisening, only 17 weight 140, never touched it agian

Question: is there any long term effects

PS Please respond
by mo269, Sep 30, 2009
I am having some serious issues right now. I was a college student in a fraternity and drank excessive amounts of alcohol. I would go through severe hangovers and withdrawals symptoms. There are proabably a dozen times where I have completely black out and been unaware of my events but there is a particular time where i think i escaped death. I woke up and through up for around four hours and felt confused and had other symptoms of alcohol posioning. Since then i have stopped drinking but i didnt consult a medical physician before i went cold turkey. I feel now that I have severe brain damage. My personality has left me and i have lost my edge and am having diffculty understanding and responding to others as well as a very shortened attention span. During this time I made the worse decisions of my life and i got suspended from school for a semester. I am trying to ignore the symptoms in hope that they go away but i feel that i have done considerable damage. Should I go to an neurologist and is there any hope.
by sbroeme, Aug 06, 2010
I have done a lot of research since my recent experience with alcohol poisoning. I am 17 and just last week i went to a friends party. Its not very often that i drink, but when i do, i binge. It's always been a bad habit, but I've never had such a large quantity available as i did that night.
The doctors estimated over 14 shots of hard liquor within a couple hours, but of course i could not confirm the amount. I had blacked out and kept drinking.
If it wasn't for mom my catching me, i would not of stopped. But luckily, she demanded my return home, and my friend (also drunk) drove me home. It was even more dangerous because we were racing to get to my house, luckily we didn't kill anyone that night. As soon as i got home (not even 30 minutes after i stopped) my body started failing me. My speech was long gone and i would go from the fetal position in tears to laughter in our from yard.
She took me to the hospital and i was at a 3.11 blood alcohol level (after i had puked most of the alcohol out) .
The scariest part was, after they hooked me up from head to toe in medical equipment, my mom sat beside me and watched my heart beat stop multiple time. The nurse would look at me and see my eyes completely dilate, turn coal black, and roll to the back of my head. They were afraid that i wouldn't wake up one of those times.

The next morning i woke up with a sever hang over. In that state i wondered how much brain damage i had done and how much momentum i would gain back from this hangover. It scared me to wonder what it would be like if i was in a hangover state for the rest of my life because of brain damage and that's when i began my research.

After endless articles of brain damage caused not only by alcohol poisonings, but other traumatic injuries and results of cardiac arrests, i have a small bit of information to share that may not be new to some of you, but it is to me.
permanent brain damage occurs when there is a lack of oxygen (drinking to fast per breath; binging) and/or the lack of blood pumping from the heart to the brain (which if stopped can kill u within 5-10 minutes).
"How exactly does lack of oxygen damage the brain?"
Like all of your cells (except erythrocytes), brain cells carry out respiration and therefore, need oxygen. Your brain is the "busiest" organ, so its demand for O2 is greater (so is its need for glucose).

How does drinking affect your oxygen? There's this thing called the "medulla" it controls basic survival functions, including regulation of the cardiac and respiratory systems. When a lot of alcohol has been consumed the effect can be deadly. When the medulla is depressed (from drinking) an individual's heart rate and blood pressure can drop to dangerous levels and respiration will significantly decrease.

what part of the brain does it damage?
As a whole the brain experiences”shrinkage". Brain shrinkage increases with age in everyone. It will make you more vulnerable to cognitive decline (decline of working memory, processing speed, long-term memory, visual processing) and dementia (Deterioration of intellectual faculties, such as memory, concentration, and judgment, resulting from an organic disease or a disorder of the brain. It is sometimes accompanied by emotional disturbance and personality changes).
More specifically, there is shrinkage of a particular part of the brain - the hippocampus - which is critical for memory. The hippocampus is a major component. It is a paired structure, with mirror-image halves in the left and right sides of the brain. It is located inside the medial temporal lobe, beneath the cortical surface.
I think that answers the rest of your questions. This research sure did help me understate a lot of what I'm was doing to myself.
The feeling is only sickening now that i know i literally swallowing toxic waste, i mine as well smack either side my head against a concrete wall.
Thank you for posting these questions, you really helped me to research and more importantly, you've given me comfort that I'm not the only one who has caused damage to their brains and wants to stop. One day, i want to be a great engineer, and after the earlier years of my heavily episodes, I'm going to have to work harder than most, but i guess it will be a great way to test my brain damage.

Mo269, i think that even though you've lost your edge, you'll be okay. You're not a vegetable who isn't trying to fix their live, and you obviously had to do some research to find this post. It's been almost a year, so how are you now?

I hope this helps and if you guys what the articles i pulled this info from just ask.

by VKM1, Mar 05, 2011

I used to drink socially or get to get drunk, I had a choice. Then one day I decided to have a few bacardis while I watched a film, this turned into a 4 day bacardi "binge" I was bed ridden for a week. After which I have never felt quite right, I found that one drink became many and bed ridden for days. My only answer was more and more and longer in bed. Ultimately it led to alcoholism, I hit AA and am 6 yrs sober, however I still do not feel quite right, One night I during my ongoing sobriety I had my coke spiked with Vodka, I tasted it and knew immediately, I went home, and found myself bedridden for 4days from One sip of vodka!!!! I have also become aware that whenver I fall ill from a bug or flu it has the same effects on as the alcohol and bedridden I be again. Explain that one and let me know if there is answer because I have been googling for a long time, my doc is baffled and hundreds of AA members including longstanding members aho I have met over the years and country I hav no idea. I am happy not drinking, I just am not happy at being in bed for days with the average 24hr bug or flu.

by demiperkins, Mar 28, 2011
Much like you (Vitruvius), a very similar thing happened to my self, and i often worry about the affects it may have had on my brain. It occurred fairly recently, when i was in town (the worst place to do it, especially when your considerably under age, like myself). I was with a friend of mine and we decided to buy some vodka off of her cousin. Whilst my friend had roughly a quarter of the miniature sized bottle, enough to send her over the edge, i had the remainder and was slightly tipsy. It wasn't until we opened the second bottle that it really started to hit me. i could remember everything that was going on for about the next 20 - 30 minutes but then everything else began to become a blur.

Later that night, when my mum picked me up, little did i know that i nearly got run over by stepping out in front of a car, i was told the next morning by my enraged parents, hence the reason why i intend never to drink excessively again, i hope very much that this will have very little affect on me later in life as i aspire to be a Criminal Psychologist..
by Drugexpert420, Apr 13, 2011
alcohol causes very little irreversable damage. you will die from liver failure far before you get irreversable damage. if you do get it, you will have the feeling of intoxication 24/7. it may not be strong but it will definetly be noticeable. what alcohol does is it causes an excessive amount of calcium to enter the brain cells. once there, having too much calcium damages the tips of the messenger of the cells.( cause slowed physical and mental effects, as well as loss of coordination and slurred speach) this gets quickly repaired by the cells in only a couple days, but if you have over excessive amounts of alcohol, it is possible to cause slight irreversable damage that is not noticable. but the more you do it, the worse it gets.
by rod44, Apr 14, 2011
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome (also called wet brain) is a manifestation of thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency and is secondary to alcohol abuse. if left untreated, Wet Brain Syndrome can lead to coma or even death. In fact, if amnesia and psychosis have already occurred, it is unlikely that a full recovery will be achieved......

Alcohol depresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing and the gag reflex (which prevents choking). A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually stop these functions.It is common for someone who drank excessive alcohol to vomit since alcohol is an irritant to the stomach. There is then the danger of choking on vomit, which could cause death by asphyxiation in a person who is not conscious because of intoxication.