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While there is not a universal antidote for ethanol, there are several ways in which an overdose can be treated. For recent ingestion, pumping the stomach is a common method of reducing the ethanol load. Depending on the patient and the amount ingested, an administration of dextrose may be beneficial as well. A process called hemodialysis may also be an effective antidote for ethanol, though it is an invasive process which is usually only used in severe situations. Some patients may also require dialysis.
If the overdose has happened within the hour, pumping the stomach is usually one of the first steps for treating an overdose — even when a doctor uses another antidote for ethanol. It may also be necessary to open the airway with a breathing tube. Some patients may need intravenous (IV) administration of fluids as well.
Other treatments for ethanol overdose depend upon the needs of the patient. If there is danger of hypoglycemia, it may be necessary to administer an IV with dextrose. Dialysis may be administered for people who have problems with their hepatic function. Some patients will need to have electrolytes replenished as well.
One of the most invasive procedures for treating an ethanol overdose is hemodialysis. This method is used to purge the blood of ethanol. Due to its invasive nature, it is typically not recommended unless other methods have not been effective.
For people who frequently overdose, a thiamine IV is a common antidote for ethanol. This is typically administered to prevent injury to the brain. Often these kinds of individuals will need to be treated for other substances as well. A patient who habitually abuses alcohol may also need additional nutrients while being treated for an overdose.
Ethanol overdose is typically caused by excess consumption of alcoholic beverages or products containing alcohol. Common symptoms include slurred speech, pain in the abdomen, and slowed breathing. A patient may also have trouble walking or seem to be in a stupor. Vomiting and intestinal bleeding are other warning signs.
The immediate antidote for excess ethanol consumption by adults is to place the person on his or her side to ensure they will not choke if they vomit. If the person is barely or not at all conscious, then emergency medical care will often be necessary. Children who have consumed high amounts of ethanol, no matter what their condition, will usually need immediate medical attention.