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.
It is common for someone who drank excessive alcohol to vomit since alcohol is an irritant to the stomach. 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.
You should also know that a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) could 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. It is dangerous to assume the person will be fine by sleeping it off.
Critical symptoms of alcohol poisoning are listed below:
-Mental confusion, stupor, coma or person cannot be roused
-Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute)
-Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
-Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness
What to do if you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning:
-Know the danger signals.
-Do not wait for all symptoms to be present.
-Be aware that a person who has passed out may die.
-If there is any suspicion of an alcohol overdose, call 911 for help. Don't try to guess the level of drunkenness.
Alcohol poisoning is a medical emergency. Our first priority is the safety of our students. If you think a friend might have alcohol poisoning, please get help. The Clemson University Police Department (864-656-2222) or 911 are the quickest resources to help a friend in need.
The information above is from CollegeDrinkingPrevention.gov. For more information on alcohol poisoning, visit http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/otheralcoholinformation/factsaboutalcoholpoisoning.aspx.
Alcohol and Other Drug Resources