Recognizing Alcohol Poisoning & Taking Action
There are steps that you can take if you encounter someone who could be suffering from acute alcohol poisoning. It is dangerous to assume a person will be fine by "just sleeping it off." A person who is drinking heavily and passes out may be suffering from acute alcohol poisoning and could die if you don’t help.
- Try to Wake The Person
First, try to find out if the person is at all attentive. Are they unconscious? Can they be woken up? Try and call their name. Pinch their skin-because they should have some reaction.
- Turn The Person on Their Side/Do Not Leave Them
Turn the person on his or her side. You turn the person on their side so that if they get sick and vomit, the airways will not be blocked and they will not choke. Stay with them. Only leave them if you have to go to a phone or to get someone to help you. Monitor the breathing. Make sure they do not rollover on their back.
- Check Skin Color or Temperature
What is their skin color and temperature? Is enough blood getting to the skin? A sign that you should get help is if a person has pale or bluish skin, or the skin is cold or clammy. This person is not getting enough oxygen.
- Check The Person’s Breathing
How is the person breathing? If a person is breathing irregularly with a few breaths and then nothing for awhile — this is a sign that medical attention is necessary. If the person’s breathing is too slow or shallow — less than 8 breaths a minute — or more than 10 seconds in between breaths — this is another sign you should get help.
- There Are No Absolutes/Everyone Is Different
These are just some of the potential signs of acute alcohol poisoning. A person may have one or all. If you cannot wake the person up at all, it is a serious situation. If you are at all concerned, don’t hesitate to get help.
Source: "Alcohol Poisoning," The BACCHUS & GAMMA Peer Education Network, Copyright 2002.