Alcohol Awareness
Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol Poisoning:
When you consume too much alcohol too fast, it acts as a poison. Sometimes if you drink too much you vomit or pass out. This is your body's way of protecting itself from absorbing any more alcohol. (If you've passed out you can't drink anymore.)

When you drink a lot really fast, you may not pass out in time, and instead alcohol in your stomach and intestines continue to enter your bloodstream and the results could be fatal. An unconscious body will still try to expel the poison by vomiting but you could choke on the vomit and end up in a coma or dead.
What exactly happens - alcohol depresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing and the gag reflex (which prevents choking). A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually stop these functions.

Acute Alcohol Poisoning is tragically common on campuses and often linked to drinking games and birthday celebrations where the birthday person's friends buy them shooter after shooter. These friendly events can and do kill people. Stop for a minute and imagine what it would be like to know that the friend you encouraged to down all those shots last night, didn't wake up this morning and won't wake up ever again. This is a terrifying thought, but there are things you can learn and do that will help prevent it from ever becoming a reality.
(First Aid)

Know the Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning:
• Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin
• Slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute)
• Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
• Seizures
• Mental confusion, stupor or the unconsciousness or "sleeping" person cannot be awakened
• Vomiting while "sleeping" or passed out, and not waking up after

If you recognize any of these signs in someone who you know has been drinking, you need to act immediately to save their lives - do not wait for all symptoms to be present, do something now- get medical help! There have been too many occasions when a caring friend has helped a drunk to bed to "sleep it off", only to find them dead in the morning.

It doesn't matter if the drinker is underage or not supposed to drink for whatever reason. If you suspect that someone may be suffering from acute alcohol poisoning, call 911. Don't ask 20 people for their opinion before you do this - you could cost your friend their life. Next, use the Bacchus Maneuver to roll them into the recovery position so they won't choke if they vomit. Start CPR if they stop breathing, or find someone with first aid training to do it for you. And stay with the person until medical help arrives.

What can Happen to Someone with Alcohol Poisoning
if Left Untreated
• Hypothermia (extreme low body temperatures)
• Breathing slows, becomes irregular or stops
• Heat beats irregularly or stops
• Hypoglycemia (too little blood sugars) leads to seizures
• Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting.

Even if the person lives, an alcohol overdose can lead to irreversible brain damage.

Last Updated: January 11,2005

©2004 The University of Lethbridge
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Lethbridge, Alberta, T1K 3M4