Alcohol poisoning is a serious — and sometimes deadly — consequence of drinking large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time. Sometimes emotional factors contribute to excessive consumption. At other times, people miscalculate the strength of what they are drinking or forget they haven’t eaten beforehand. Drinking too much too quickly can affect your breathing, heart rate, body temperature and gag reflex and potentially lead to a coma and death.
You should call 911 if you notice these CUPS signs of alcohol poisoning…
C - Cold, clammy skin, pale or bluish skin
U - Unconscious/Semi-conscious -When a person loses consciousness due to consuming too much alcohol they may appear to be sleeping, but if they can't be awakened, they are at risk of dying of alcohol poisoning. Try to awaken the individual by gently shaking them and calling their name, if you know it. If the person does not respond, call 911.
P - Prolonged vomiting/ very rapid or very slow pulse (severe circulatory problems are indicated by an irregular pulse or a pulse above 100 or below 60 beats per minute)
S - Slow, shallow or irregular breathing / seizures
- If you are paying attention to your own breathing and the person you are concerned about has breathing that is very different (watch their chest and stomach)
If you see ANY of these signs, call 911.
Passing out versus blacking out
When a person loses consciousness due to consuming too much alcohol this is also referred to as "passing out." This person may appear to be sleeping, but if they can't be awakened, they are at risk of dying of alcohol poisoning if they do not obtain immediate medical help.
Blackouts are a period of time in which an intoxicated person is not able to remember details of an entire event (complete blackout) or parts of an event (partial blackout). Blackouts occur due to alcohol interrupting the activity of the hippocampus (part of the brain that is key in forming new autobiographical memories). Someone is more likely to blackout and experience memory impairment when they consume large amounts of alcohol at a rapid pace.
While you wait for the ambulance…
- DON’T attempt to constrain the person.
- DON’T give the person any medication. Tylenol (acetaminophen) is especially dangerous. Unlike most other pain relievers which can be serious irritants to your stomach, intestines and liver, Tylenol is toxic towards the liver especially when taken with alcohol and can cause serious liver damage and death. Tylenol causes three times the amount of serious liver failure than all other medicines combined.
- DON’T give the person food, coffee, tea, or other liquids. They are at risk for choking.
- DON’T induce vomiting.
- DON’T give the person a cold shower
- DON’T assume that every intoxicated person who passes out will sleep it off. Check their breathing at regular intervals. Don’t leave them alone.
- Put the person on their side in the recovery position.
Alcohol depresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing and the gag reflex. The gag reflex helps to prevent choking, so, when drunk and unconscious, a person may inhale fluids that have been vomited, which can result in death due to suffocation. This is why it's important to put the person on their side in the recovery position to prevent them from choking on their own vomit.
Don’t worry about getting into trouble, do the right thing! Are you aware of the UNI Good Samaritan Provision within the Student Conduct Code?
Questions about the Good Samaritan Provision? Come talk with Dean of Students Staff in Gilchrist 118 or call 319-273-2332.