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What is Acute Intoxication?

Acute intoxication occurs when substances like alcohol or drugs rapidly impair a person's mental and physical abilities. This sudden onset can lead to risky behaviors and health emergencies. Visuals reveal the stark impact on coordination, judgment, and overall well-being. How does this condition affect the body and mind in the short and long term? Join us as we examine the consequences.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Acute intoxication is a diagnosis that is used by diagnostic manuals, like the ICD (International Classification of Diseases), to describe a person who has been altered in one or more ways by an intoxicating substance. It’s common to think of alcohol, but according to the ICD, any drug prescribed or illegal, that may cause intoxication, can cause this condition. The areas that may be affected by acute intoxication include patterns of thinking (cognitive), patterns of perceiving things, ways a person behaves, body movement, and a person's judgment. Additional problems can arise like extreme vomiting and there is some risk of conditions like inhaling vomit or falling into a coma if the intoxication is severe. This condition is usually temporary and resolves as a patient’s body processes the substance that created the problem.

From a diagnostic perspective, the diagnosis of acute intoxication is made in the absence of evidence of chronic bouts of intoxication and conditions like drug or alcohol dependence. The layperson’s perspective is a bit different. If a person appears to be suffering from acute intoxication, and especially if most of the different functionings of the body are affected, it’s usually wise to seek medical help. The dangers of lapsing into a coma or inhaling vomit are strong, especially if a person is unconscious. At the very least, a call to poison control is recommended to get medical advice on how to proceed.

Taking antihistamines while drinking may cause acute intoxication.
Taking antihistamines while drinking may cause acute intoxication.

Physical reactions in acute intoxication may be the reverse of what would normally be expected from a drug. Some patients will get very sleepy or cognitively dull from taking stimulants, and others might become hyper or overcharged from use of depressants. A person’s basic health can also contribute to how quickly intoxication occurs. Drugs that are metabolized through the liver or kidneys may be more active in the body if these organs are damaged, for example.

Acute intoxication may cause extreme vomiting.
Acute intoxication may cause extreme vomiting.

Additionally, with drugs like alcohol, other factors may determine how quickly intoxication occurs, like drinking habits, body weight, consuming or failing to consume foods while drinking, and use of concurrent medications, such as antihistamines. Another influence on how intoxicated people become depends on how they perceive the drug they will take and expect it to act. Intoxication can be more serious than expected if a person taking a medication strongly believe that it would be.

The dangers of lapsing into a coma from acute intoxication are strong, especially if a person is unconscious.
The dangers of lapsing into a coma from acute intoxication are strong, especially if a person is unconscious.

Acute intoxication, though transient, represents a medically dangerous scenario. Any drug with the power to intoxicate, such as sedatives, painkillers, antihistamines, etc., has the potential to cause this reaction based on a person’s health, status, and ability to metabolize medications. Should the symptoms of acute intoxication occur with prescribed drug use, people should also seek medical help, since this reaction is viewed as adverse.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent TheHealthBoard contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...

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    • Taking antihistamines while drinking may cause acute intoxication.
      By: Wellford Tiller
      Taking antihistamines while drinking may cause acute intoxication.
    • Acute intoxication may cause extreme vomiting.
      By: Tom Wang
      Acute intoxication may cause extreme vomiting.
    • The dangers of lapsing into a coma from acute intoxication are strong, especially if a person is unconscious.
      By: Claudio's Pics
      The dangers of lapsing into a coma from acute intoxication are strong, especially if a person is unconscious.
    • Alcohol is commonly associated with acute intoxication.
      By: carla9
      Alcohol is commonly associated with acute intoxication.
    • Acute intoxication can lower a person's inhibitions.
      By: vgstudio
      Acute intoxication can lower a person's inhibitions.
    • Acute intoxication can increase feelings of euphoria.
      By: kolotype
      Acute intoxication can increase feelings of euphoria.
    • Physical reactions in acute intoxication may include sleepiness.
      By: Andres Rodriguez
      Physical reactions in acute intoxication may include sleepiness.
    • Taking prescription medications while drinking may cause adverse effects, in addition to intoxication.
      By: Lichtbildnerin
      Taking prescription medications while drinking may cause adverse effects, in addition to intoxication.