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Elizabeth Hartney, PhD

Stay Hydrated, But Not Water Intoxicated

By December 29, 2012

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With the party season well underway, many people think that drinking plenty of water is a good way to flush excessive alcohol and other toxins from their bodies. But there is a risk of water intoxication, or hyponatremia, especially among those who drink or use drugs.

Drinking water is a great way of controlling alcohol use, and I often recommend that people alternate between alcoholic drinks and water as a way of slowing down their drinking and reducing their alcohol intoxication. But sticking to one drink per hour is a good way of keeping it reasonable. As water intoxication looks a lot like alcohol intoxication, it's important to keep track of how much, and how quickly, water is being consumed.

Drugs such as ecstasy, MXE and bath salts have also been associated with life-threatening cases of water intoxication, often because those taking these drugs can easily get overheated. As well as raising the body temperature, people using these drugs may become over stimulated and over active, for example, dancing for hours on end without cooling off.

As water intoxication can be dangerous, if someone seems to be intoxicated after gulping large amounts of water, whether or not they have also had alcohol or other drugs, take them to an emergency room or call 911.

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