Alcohol coma

Alcohol coma

Ethyl coma is one of the most serious consequences of acute ethanol intoxication.


As reported in the following table, the symptoms associated with alcohol intoxication are related to the levels of ethyl alcohol in the blood , also in relation to the individual habit of the addict.


Alcohol ( g/l )* Effects (indicative)**
   0.2 Sociability, expansiveness, flush in the face
   0.5 Reduction of inhibitions
   0.8-1.2 Depressive action on motor centers, loss of self-control and balance disturbances
   1.2-2.0 Outright drunk, staggering gait
   2.0-4.0 Loss of muscle tone, indifference to surroundings, lack of reaction to stimuli, immobility, muteness
   > 4.0 Unconsciousness and coma , respiratory and cardiovascular depression , death

(*) The blood alcohol indicates the levels of alcohol in the blood and depends primarily on the quality and quantity of alcohol consumed

(**) Indicative, since, for the same blood alcohol level, the effects of alcohol depend on individual tolerance to the substance; in alcoholics, for example, the severity of intoxication is less, while adolescents and women can go into ethyl coma already exceeding 2.5 grams per litre; in children blood alcohol levels above 2 grams / liter can be fatal.

Also keep in mind that:

  • alcohol is mainly absorbed in the small intestine , stomach and to a lesser extent in the large intestine ;
  • the peak blood concentration is reached 30-120 minutes after ingestion (more rapidly if on an empty stomach, if the intake is concentrated over time and if the alcoholic beverage is carbonated rather than still).
  • The simultaneous intake of other substances such as psychopharmaceuticals or drugs accentuates the disturbances.

It is possible to calculate the indicative blood alcohol level – based on height , gender, the amount of alcohol ingested and the time elapsed since drinking – with this simple module: calculation of the alcohol content .


Ethyl coma is accompanied by:

  • profound state of unconsciousness with classic halitosis, due to the massive elimination of alcohol at the alveolar level, and skin redness ;
  • vasodilatation and hypothermia, possible cause of death;
  • bradycardia and arterial hypotension ;
  • respiratory depression.



It is a real health emergency, which as such requires rapid rescue and transport to the hospital for medical intervention. Since there is no “antidote”, the therapy of ethyl coma is based on the correction of hypothermia, hypoglycemia and acidosis (reduction in blood pH ):

  • intravenous glucose , possibly associated with small amounts of insulin , for the correction of hypoglycemia;
  • Fructose 1,6 diphosphate , thiamine , metadoxine and pyroglutamic acid, to accelerate the metabolism of alcohol;
  • Sodium bicarbonate or lactate , for the correction of metabolic acidosis ;
  • Saline solutions to restore the hydro-saline balance;
  • Glutathione , to facilitate liver detoxification;
  • Naloxone at high doses, due to its non-specific awakening action (clinical results not entirely univocal);
  • Physical means to counter hypothermia;
  • Possible forced maintenance of breathing by artificial means.

For less serious cases, see the in-depth article: Hangover Remedies



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