Role of first aid in the management of acute alcohol intoxication: A narrative review

Andrea Piccioni, Claudia Tarli, S. Cardone, M. Brigida, S. D'Addio, Marcello Covino, Christian Zanza, G. Merra, Giuseppe Merra, Veronica Ojetti, Antonio Gasbarrini, Giovanni Addolorato, Francesco Franceschi

Risultato della ricerca: Contributo in rivistaArticolo in rivista


OBJECTIVE: Acute alcohol intoxication is actually a common admission cause in the Emergency Department and represents an increasing public health burden, in particular among adolescents. It involves possible and significant illness and injury, which can quickly get worse and may need to be managed in the emergency room. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted a narrative review of the literature regarding the effectiveness of first aid role of the Emergency Department setting. RESULTS: This review included eighteen studies about alcohol intoxication management in the Emergency Department; most of all highlights the emerging phenomenon in Europe and around the world of acute alcohol intoxication management in first aid. The treatment of acute alcohol intoxication depends on general clinical conditions of the patient, vital signs, hemodynamic stability, cognitive state, alcohol-related complications, which are closely related to the blood alcohol concentration. At the same time, symptoms could be extremely variable due to individual differences in alcohol metabolism. In case of mild-moderate intoxication (blood alcohol concentration < 1 g/L), no drugs are necessary. In case of severe intoxication (blood alcohol concentration > 1 g/L), it is necessary to support with intravenous fluids, treat hypoglycemia, hypotension, hypothermia and electrolyte imbalance, administer complex B and C vitamins and accelerate alcohol elimination from blood with metadoxine. Unlike adults, adolescents are more exposed to the toxic effect of alcohol (because of their immature hepatic alcohol dehydrogenase activity), and then, acute alcohol-related complications are more frequent and dangerous in young people than in adult population. In many cases, patients affected by acute alcohol intoxication referring to an Emergency Department have mild-moderate transitory symptoms that do not require the use of drugs; they can benefit from a clinical observation, with a clinical course often completed within 24 hours with a favorable outcome. Clinical observation with vital signs control is necessary also to evaluate the possible development of the alcohol withdrawal syndrome (that involves a specific treatment) and to evaluate also possible pathological complications of the organism, above all acute liver damage. CONCLUSIONS: Patients affected by acute alcohol intoxication are the best candidates to apply the rules of the Temporary Observation Unit in the Emergency Department, because of a clinical course often completed within 24 hours, a favorable outcome and without the need for hospitalization. In many cases, hospitalization could be not necessary, but the patient affected by Alcohol Use Disorder must be referred to an Alcohol Addiction Unit for the follow-up, to reduce the risk of alcohol relapse and complications related to alcohol abuse, and financial costs of hospitalization.
Lingua originaleEnglish
pagine (da-a)9121-9128
Numero di pagine8
RivistaEuropean Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences
Stato di pubblicazionePubblicato - 2020


  • Acute alcohol intoxication
  • Alcoholic Intoxication
  • Blood Alcohol Content
  • Emergency Department
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • First Aid
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Temporary Observation Unit


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