As a central nervous system depressant, alcohol can kill just as easily as narcotics (e.g., heroin), barbiturates (downers) or other sedatives.
Too many college students say they wish they had sought medical treatment for a friend who died of acute alcohol intoxication and alcohol overdose. Many friends end up feeling responsible for alcohol-related tragedies that could have easily been prevented. Clemson University has a Medical Alcohol Amnesty Policy (MAAP) intended to facilitate access and remove barriers to students who require medical assistance in alcohol related emergencies, and to provide the opportunity for caring, non-punitive interventions in response to such incidents.
Common myths about sobering up include drinking black coffee, taking a cold bath or shower, sleeping it off or walking it off. They don't work. Only time reverses the effects of alcohol — something you might not have if you or someone else has alcohol poisoning. Many factors affect an individual's level of intoxication, so it can be difficult to gauge exactly how much is too much.
When the concentration of alcohol in the brain becomes high enough to depress the areas of the brain responsible for consciousness and respiration, the drinker can lapse into a coma, stop breathing and die.
Alcohol also depresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as the gag reflex, which prevents choking. Since alcohol irritates the stomach, people who drink an excessive amount often vomit. Without a properly functioning gag reflex, they could choke on vomit, which could kill an unconscious person.
A person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise even while passed out as alcohol in the stomach and intestine continues to enter the bloodstream. Assuming the person will “sleep it off” is dangerous.
If any of these symptoms of alcohol poisoning exist, call 911 for help. While waiting for emergency personnel, do the following:
What can happen if an alcohol overdose goes untreated?
Even if the victim lives, an alcohol overdose can cause irreversible brain damage. Rapid binge drinking is especially dangerous because the victim can ingest a fatal dose before passing out.
Don't be afraid to seek medical help for a friend who has had too much to drink. Don't worry that your friend might become angry or embarrassed. It's better to have them alive and angry than dead.
If someone passes out from drinking too much, you can help by positioning them so they won't choke if they vomit. If you are worried about them, get medical attention, especially if you can't awaken them to the point that they can talk to you.
The Bacchus Maneuver:
1. Raise the arm that is closest to you above their head. Prepare to roll them toward you.
2. Gently roll them toward you, guarding their head from hitting the floor. The head should rest in front of the arm, not on it.
3. Tilt the head up to maintain airway. Tuck their nearest hand under the cheek to help maintain head tilt and raise the face off the floor.
4. Check on them often.