Breathing Device Created That Reduces Alcohol Intoxication

Every year in the United States, 2,200 people die from alcohol poisoning. That is an average of 6 people every day, and 76% of those people are aged 35 to 64. Excessive alcohol use can lead to many long-term problems, like liver and heart disease, but even one night of drinking can result in tragedy. Injuries are more likely to occur in those who are intoxicated, such as drowning or falling, as well as an increased risk for car crashes due to driving under the influence (DUI). However, too much alcohol alone can result in death. Alcohol poisoning occurs when there is too much alcohol in the bloodstream to the point that the parts of the brain controlling life support functions, like breathing and heart rate, start shutting down. Many people survive if they receive medical treatment for alcohol poisoning, but for some it is often too late by the time they get help. However, researchers have developed a method that can reduce alcohol intoxication, that may save the lives of people with severe alcohol intoxication.

Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol poisoning, also called Ethanol poisoning, can occur in anyone who consumes too much alcohol. What is considered “too much” alcohol depends on a person’s age, gender, rate of consumption, whether they have eaten or not, and more factors. It is more likely for a person to overdose when drinking while taking certain medications, such as Benzodiazepines and Opioids. Like alcohol, certain drugs can impact parts of the brain that control breathing and can result in slow or irregular breathing. Someone who is experiencing alcohol poisoning may lose consciousness, and this can put them at risk for choking on their own vomit and dying from lack of oxygen. High amounts of alcohol in the bloodstream can impact automatic responses in the body like the gag reflex.

Signs that someone is experiencing alcohol poisoning include clammy skin, low body temperature, mental confusion (or unconsciousness), seizures, and slow heart rate. If someone is experiencing any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to call 911 and get them professional medical care. Once someone with alcohol poisoning arrives at the emergency room (ER), health care providers may use techniques like intubation, intravenous fluids, or a ventilator to offer support. In some cases of people with severe ethanol toxicity, dialysis has been used to expedite the removal of alcohol from the bloodstream when they were not responding to traditional treatments. This works by removing blood from the body and processing it through a dialyzer, the filter on a dialysis machine that mimics a kidney’s job and cleans the blood before returning it to the body. This method of reducing alcohol intoxication is not used often and is complicated, but research published in Scientific Reports, a Nature Research Journal, has presented another seemingly simple solution.

Reducing Alcohol Intoxication By Hyperventilating

A team at the University Health Network made a device that uses a valve system, mask, and a tank with compressed carbon dioxide that allows a patient to hyperventilate without becoming lightheaded and potentially passing out. Hyperventilating causes the body to eliminate both carbon dioxide and alcohol from the blood. The deeper and faster someone breathes, the more alcohol that is breathed out by the lungs. If used in clinical settings, this device could help eliminate alcohol from the bloodstream and reduce alcohol intoxication in high-risk patients. The team was led by Dr. Joseph Fisher who stated, “It’s very basic, low-tech device that could be made anywhere in the world: no electronics, no computers or filters are required. It’s almost inexplicable why we didn’t try this decades ago.” The study was performed in a laboratory with volunteers and the authors plan on future studies.

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Hayley Hudson

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  • Hayley Hudson is the Director of Content at Addiction Center. She earned a B.A. from the University of Central Florida, with a focus on writing and rhetoric, media, and communications. Hayley has been a professional writer and editor since 2016.

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