Sum 41’s Deryck Whibley Recovering From Alcohol Poisoning

Sum 41 frontman Deryck Whibley has been M.I.A. lately, and now we know the reason why.

Whibley, 34,  had to be hospitalized for a month for treatment of alcoholism. As he wrote on his website:

 “I’ve been very sick in the hospital for a month and was pretty sick for a few weeks leading up to my trip to the hospital. the reason i got so sick is from all the hard boozing i’ve been doing over the years. it finally caught up to me. i was drinking hard every day. until one night. i was sitting at home, poured myself another drink around mid night and was about to watch a movie when all of a sudden i didn’t feel so good. i then collapsed to the ground unconscious.

“My fiance got me rushed to the hospital where they put me into the intensive care unit. i was stuck with needles and i.v.’s all over. i was completely sedated the FIRST WEEK. when i finally woke up the next day i had no idea where i was. my mum and step dad were standing over me. i was so freaked out. my liver and kidney’s collapsed on me. needless to say it scared me straight. i finally realized i can’t drink anymore.”

” I have my passion and inspiration back for writing music. i already have a few song ideas for new songs. soon it will be time to start making an album and getting back to touring again.”

Needless to say, the terms collapsed liver and kidneys are not medical terms, and must imply a serious “injury”(in the metabolic sense) to both organs. The fact that he became unconscious after a prolonged period of heavy drinking makes a diagnosis of alcohol poisoning possible.

What is Alcohol Poisoning?

Although many people enjoy moderate drinking, defined as 1 drink per day for women or 2 for men, drinking too much can lead to an overdose. An overdose of alcohol occurs when a person has a blood alcohol content (or BAC) sufficient to produce impairments that increase the risk of harm. Overdoses can range in severity, from problems with balance and slurred speech to coma or even death. What tips the balance from drinking that has pleasant effects to drinking that can cause harm varies among individuals. Age, drinking experience, gender, the amount of food eaten, even ethnicity all can influence how much is too much.

The Standard Measure of Alcohol

drinksIn the United States, a standard drink is any drink that contains 0.6 ounces (14.0 grams or 1.2 tablespoons) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in

  • 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
  • 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content).
  • 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
  • 1.5-ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, whiskey).

Research shows that people under age 20 typically drink about 5 drinks at one time. Drinking such a large quantity of alcohol can overwhelm the body’s ability to break down and clear alcohol from the bloodstream. This leads to rapid increases in BAC and significantly impairs brain function.

As BAC increases, so do alcohol’s effects—as well as the risk for harm. Even small increases in BAC can decrease coordination, make a person feel sick, and cloud judgment. This can lead to injury from falls or car crashes, leave one vulnerable to sexual assault or other acts of violence, and increase the risk for unprotected or unintended sex. When BACs go even higher, amnesia (or blackouts) can occur.

alcohol scale

Continuing to drink despite clear signs of significant impairments can result in a potentially deadly type of overdose called alcohol poisoning.

Critical Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

  • Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or inability to wake up
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness

BAC can continue to rise even when a person is unconscious. Alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body.

It is dangerous to assume that an unconscious person will be fine by sleeping it off. Alcohol acts as a depressant, hindering signals in the brain that control automatic responses such as the gag reflex. Alcohol also can irritate the stomach, causing vomiting. With no gag reflex, a person who drinks to the point of passing out is in danger of choking on vomit, which, in turn, could lead to death by asphyxiation. Even if the drinker survives, an alcohol overdose can lead to long-lasting brain damage.

If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, get medical help immediately. Cold showers, hot coffee, or walking will not reverse the effects of alcohol overdose and could actually make things worse.

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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