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Alcohol, Drug, or Poison Ingestion: Care Instructions


A person can become very sick, or die, from swallowing or using alcohol, drugs, or poisons.

Alcohol poisoning occurs when a person drinks a large amount of alcohol. Alcohol can stop nerve signals that control breathing. It can also stop the gag reflex that prevents choking. Alcohol poisoning is serious. It can lead to brain damage or death if it's not treated right away.

Drugs can be used by mistake or on purpose. They can be swallowed, inhaled, injected, or absorbed through the skin. Drugs include over-the-counter medicine (such as aspirin or acetaminophen) and prescription medicine. They also include natural health products, such as vitamins or herbal remedies. And they include illegal drugs such as cocaine and heroin.

And poisons are all around us. They include household cleaners, cosmetics, houseplants, and garden chemicals.

The doctor has checked you carefully, but problems can develop later. If you notice any problems or new symptoms, get medical treatment right away.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

How can you care for yourself at home?

Alcohol problems

  • Some people who want to cut back on or stop drinking are able to do so on their own. But others may need help. Talk to your doctor or counsellor about programs that can help you.
  • Plan ways to avoid being tempted to drink.
    • Get rid of all alcohol in your home.
    • Avoid places where you tend to drink.
    • Stay away from places or events that offer alcohol.
    • Stay away from people who drink a lot.

Drug problems

  • Some people who want to cut back on or stop using drugs are able to do so on their own. But others may need help. Talk to your doctor or counsellor about programs that can help you.
  • Get rid of any drugs you might be tempted to misuse.
  • Learn how to say no when other people use drugs.
  • Don't spend time with people who use drugs.

Poison prevention

  • Keep products in the containers they came in. Keep them with the original labels.
  • Be careful when you use cleaning products, paints, solvents, and pesticides. Read labels before use. Use a fan to move strong odours and fumes out of your home.
  • Do not mix cleaning products. Try to use non-toxic cleaners. These include vinegar, lemon juice, and baking soda.

When should you call for help?

A poison centre can give you immediate advice in the case of a poisoning. Call 911 if the person passes out, has trouble breathing, is hard to wake up, or is having a seizure.

    Your local Poison Control Centre, nurse call line, hospitals, or your doctor can give immediate advice in the case of a poisoning. In Alberta, call the Poison and Drug Information Service (PADIS) at 1-800-332-1414. Have the poison container with you so you can give complete information to the poison control centre, such as what the poison or substance is, how much was taken and when. Do not try to make the person vomit.

Call 911 or other emergency services immediately anytime you think you may need emergency care. For example, call if you or someone else:

  • Is thinking seriously of suicide or has recently tried suicide.
  • Has used or currently uses alcohol or drugs and is very confused or can't stay awake.
  • Has passed out (lost consciousness).
  • Has severe trouble breathing.
  • Is having a seizure.

Where to get help 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

If you or someone you know talks about suicide, self-harm, a mental health crisis, a substance use crisis, or any other kind of emotional distress, get help right away.

  • Call or text Canada's suicide and crisis hotline at 988.
  • Call Talk Suicide Canada: 1-833-456-4566 or text 45645 (4 p.m. to midnight ET).
  • Kids or teens can call Kids Help Phone: 1-800-668-6868 or text CONNECT to 686868.
  • Go to the Talk Suicide Canada website at or the Kids Help Phone website at for more information.

Consider saving these numbers in your phone.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if you or someone else:

  • Has new symptoms, or is not acting normally.
  • If the overdose or ingestion was related to a suicide attempt.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • You do not get better as expected.
  • You need help with drug or alcohol problems.
  • You have problems with depression or other mental health issues.

Where can you learn more?

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