Alcohol poisoning is a very real and serious medical emergency caused by ingesting too much alcohol too quickly. This usually happens through drinking games (i.e., Century Club, 21 shots for 21st b-day, quarters, etc.) and other high risk drinking behaviors such as keg stands, beer-bonging, and shot-gunning. Alcohol causes death directly by acting on those brain areas that control consciousness, respiration, and heart rate. As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol can “turn off” these vital brain areas, possibly resulting first in a coma and eventually death.
Signs of life-threatening levels of intoxication
- A person’s breathing is very slow (less than 8 times per minute), and perhaps irregular (with 10 seconds or more between breaths)
- A person’s pulse is weak, or is either very slow or very fast
- A person has passed out, or is asleep, and cannot be aroused, or can only be slightly aroused for a few moments
- A person’s hands or feet are colder and clammy, or skin is pale or bluish
- Vomiting, urinating, or defecating while sleeping or passed out, and not waking up after doing so
This is a medical emergency! Call the EMTs at x4444 or 911 immediately
What to do
- Call the EMTs (x4444) or 911 IMMEDIATELY!!
- Do not leave the person alone.
- Turn the victim on his/her side to prevent choking or suffocating in case of vomiting.
- Stay with the person until medical help arrives.
What NOT to do
- Don’t leave the person alone, for safety reasons.
- Don’t give any drugs or medication (not even aspirin) to the person to try to sober him/her up.
- Don’t give the person food in attempts to “absorb the alcohol.” This will increase the risk of vomiting.
- Don’t give the person coffee, tea, or other liquid stimulants. You’ll just have a wide-awake, agitated drunk person.
- Don’t give the person a cold shower. He/she could fall, or the shock could make them pass out.
- Don’t try to exercise the person in hopes of “burning off the booze.” This will not help, and could cause injuries.
If you are concerned about your own drinking behaviors or those of a friend, please seek help. Contact Counseling Services on campus to speak with a professional about your options. All meetings are confidential.