Remember to make good decisoins.

Alcohol Poisoning

When should you seek professional help for a friend?

Students often laugh at the behavior of others who are drunk. Some think it's even funnier when they pass out. But there is nothing funny about the aspiration of vomit leading to asphyxiation or the poisoning of the respiratory center in the brain, both of which can result in death.  Sadly enough, too many college students say they wish they would have sought medical treatment for a friend. Many end up feeling responsible for alcohol-related  tragedies that could have easily been prevented.

Sobering-Up MYTHS

  • Drink black coffee
  • Sleep it off
  • Take a cold shower   
  • Eat fatty/greasy foods        
  • Walk it off
These are just MYTHS and they don't work!!  The only thing that reverses the effects of alcohol is TIME -- something you may not have if you are suffering from alcohol poisoning.

 Risk Factors

  • Amount of Alcohol you Drink – the more alcohol you drink, the higher your risk for alcohol poisoning.  REMEMBER: the average person is only able to metabolize about 1 standard drink (.5 oz) per hour.
  • How Fast You Drink – playing drinking games, doing kegstands or powerhours, or chugging alcohol greatly increases your risk for getting alcohol poisoning.  Rapid binge drinking (which often happens as a bet or dare) is extremely dangerous because the victim can ingest a fatal does before becoming unconscious or showing signs of poisoning.
  • Use of Marijuana or Medication – using certain types of medications or  marijuana decreases nausea and puts you at higher risk for alcohol poisoning because your body is unable to vomit and rid itself of the toxic levels of alcohol before they are dumped into the bloodstream.
  • High BAC Levels- Alcohol Poisoning corresponds with high Blood Alcohol Content levels.  Click here for more on the Factors that Affect BAC.

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

  • Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or person cannot be roused
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness, discolored lips

What Happens to Your Body?

  • Alcohol depresses the sympathetic nervous system, which controls involuntary actions such as breathing and the gag reflex (which prevents choking). A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually stop these functions.
  • Alcohol irritates the stomach, so it is common for someone who drank excessive alcohol to vomit.  There is then the danger of choking on vomit, which could cause death by asphyxiation in a person who is not conscious because of intoxication.
  • A person's blood alcohol content (BAC) can continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. Even after a person stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. A person does not reach his or her peak BAC until about an hour after he or she stops drinking.  It is dangerous to assume the person will be fine by sleeping it off.

What If Alcohol Poisoning Goes Untreated?

  • Victim chokes on his or her own vomit
  • Breathing slows, becomes irregular, or stops
  • Heart beats irregularly or stops
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature)
  • Hypoglycemia (too little blood sugar) leads to seizures
  • Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting can cause seizures, permanent brain damage, or death


  • Even if the victim lives, an alcohol overdose can lead to irreversible brain damage.
  • Rapid binge drinking (which often happens on a bet or a dare) is especially dangerous because the victim can ingest a fatal dose before becoming unconscious or showing signs of poisoning.
  • Don't be afraid to seek medical help for a friend who has had too much to drink.
  • Don't worry that your friend may become angry or embarrassed-remember, you cared enough to help. Always be safe, not sorry.

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