What Would You Do...

You and a friend go out to eat. The restaurant does not serve alcohol. You enjoy a nice tasty meal. Afterward, your friend shares that she is not feeling well. She lays down to rest and ends up vomiting. When you check on her later you find that she is passed out. What would you do? Chances are you would think that she has food poisoning and seek immediate medical attention. Could you ever imagine that instead of calling for help, you might write all over her with magic marker, take her clothes off and take pictures, or some other crazy stunt?

Now change the above scenario to you and a friend go out drinking. Your friend has too much to drink and complains of not feeling well. Chances are great in this scenario that medical attention will not be sought. But the reality is that both cases involve poisoning. It just so happens that this one is alcohol poisoning. We seem to be oblivious to the fact that alcohol poisoning is a serious health threat. We have been brainwashed into believing that alcohol poisoning is no big deal, and that the person will sleep it off and be okay. And, for the most part, there is truth to that belief. Many people drink too much and live to tell about it. But the scary thing is that many students die every year because this scenario did not hold true for them. Is your life or the life of a friend worth the gamble?

Doing twenty-one shots on a twenty-first birthday is one way to increase dramatically your odds of getting alcohol poisoning. It is especially dangerous when there is an attempt to do twenty-one shots in the two-hour timeframe once midnight passes and the person is officially twenty-one.

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

  • Unconscious or semiconscious
  • Vomiting without reacting or waking
  • Slowed respirations of fewer than eight breaths per minute, or lapses between breaths for more than eight seconds
  • Cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin

What to Do

  • If you encounter a person who exhibits one or more of the above signs, call 911 immediately. Treat it as the medical emergency that it is.
  • While waiting for help, turn the intoxicated person on his/her side. This will reduce the risk of choking if the person vomits.

Pitfalls of Not Calling for Help

There are pitfalls for thinking, “Instead of calling for help, I'll check on them to make sure they are okay”:

  • The person would need to be monitored constantly, not checked on every so often. If a person's airway becomes blocked, it only takes a few minutes without oxygen to have irreversible brain damage. After five minutes without oxygen, the person will be brain dead.
  • Even though a person appears to be semiconscious, alcohol already in the stomach will continue to enter the blood stream, elevating the blood-alcohol content. Having too high of a BAC can cause the heart and lungs to quit functioning, resulting in death.
  • Chances are that the individual who is monitoring the intoxicated individual has also been drinking. Alcohol impairs one's ability to make decisions and judgments; thus, the person may not seek medical attention because he or she does not realize the severity of the situation.