Technische Universität München

The Entrepreneurial University

Alcohol intoxication leads to nausea and vomiting. This increases the risk of aspiration due to impairment of protective reflexes. If the drinker aspirates vomit into the lungs, it can lead to airway blockage, aspiration pneumonia and lung abscesses. If the intoxicated person vomits in his/her sleep, death could occur from suffocation.
Alcohol intoxication may result in respiratory arrest and death. Concurrent use of alcohol with opioids or benzodiazepines increases the risk of respiratory arrest. Opioid administration inhibits the medullar respiratory centers. Glutamate and gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) are respectively the major excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters that mediate the control of respiration. Both alcohol and benzodiazepines facilitate the inhibitory effect of GABA, while alcohol also decreases the excitatory effect of glutamate on respiration.
Alcohol consumption increases the frequency of sleep apnea. Alcoholics are also at risk for an increased number of upper respiratory infections and pneumonias related to a decreased functioning of the immune system associated with alcohol overuse.