Device offers a breakthrough way to end alcohol intoxication faster – by breathing

Toronto, Ontario – For some drinkers, the effects of alcohol can last long after a night of partying. Normally, the liver naturally removes most of this from the human body, but the process cannot be accelerated. Now scientists in Canada say a new device could help people end their drunkenness three times faster – just by breathing.

Researchers at the University Health Network in Toronto have developed a simple method that focuses on hyperventilation to eliminate alcohol through the lungs. Team leader Dr. Joseph Fisher says their proof of concept could become a breakthrough therapy for severe alcohol poisoning or even help regular drinkers who get “sober.”

Ethanol, more commonly known as alcohol, can affect every part of the human body. This includes brain function, blood circulation, and even nail growth. When drinkers reach a certain level of alcohol concentration in the blood, their intoxication damages the organs and can lead to death. The World Health Organization says that three million people die every year from harmful alcohol consumption.

How can you breathe yourself out of drunkenness?

The human liver is responsible for removing 90 percent of the alcohol it has been exposed to, but the rate at which it does this is a constant figure. Until now, dialysis was the only way to speed up the sobering process. Doctors can also help patients with severe intoxication by administering oxygen and intravenous fluids.

Researchers found that by breathing harder, the lungs can help the liver push more alcohol out of the body. While the results show that hyperventilation speeds up this process at least three times, the team says you can’t just grab a paper bag and start panting and puffing.

Alcohol intoxication
Dr. Joseph Fisher demonstrates the use of ClearMate in his lab. (Photo: UHN)

“You can’t just hyperventilate because in a minute or two you would become lightheaded and pass out,” explains Dr. Fisher explains in a press release.

Researchers add that hyperventilation also causes the body to rid itself of carbon dioxide along with the alcohol. Drops in this gas cause light-headedness, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet, and fainting.

Fisher, an anesthetist at the Toronto General Hospital Research Institute (TGHRI), says the new device allows patients to hyperventilate the alcohol from their systems while returning carbon dioxide to the body. The machine produces just the right amount of this gas to maintain the body’s normal blood levels, regardless of how long the patient hyperventilates.

More importantly, the device is only the size of a small suitcase, which means it can treat intoxication anywhere people serve drinks.

“It’s a very simple, low-tech device that can be made anywhere in the world: no electronics, no computers or filters are needed. It’s almost inexplicable why we didn’t try this decades ago, ”adds Dr. Fisher admits.

The study appears in the journal Scientific reports.

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