What happens to Your Body When You Get Alcohol Poisoning?
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 in a person who is drunk.
You also should know that a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise even while he or she is passed out. Even after a person stops drinking, alcohol in the stomach and intestines continue to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. It is dangerous to assume the person will be fine by sleeping it off.
Critical Signs for Alcohol Poisoning:
- Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or person cannot be aroused
- 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 should I do if I 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 someone’s level of drunkenness.
What can happen to someone with alcohol poisoning that goes untreated?
- Victim chokes on his or her own vomit
- Breathing slows, becomes irregular, or stops
- Heart beats irregularly or stops
- Hypothermia (low body temperature)
- Hypoglycemia (too little blood sugar) leads to seizures
- Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting can cause seizures, permanent brain damage, or death
What should I do if I think someone is suffering from alcohol poisoning?
Call Public Safety at 610-330-5330, or if you are off campus, call 911. Do not be afraid to seek help for a friend or fellow student whom you think may have alcohol poisoning.
What is a Good Samaritan?
This practice is designed to empower students and organizations to seek emergency assistance for dangerously intoxicated individuals. The protocol reflects the College’s dedication to the health and welfare of all students. Neither those reporting incidents nor those needing help will be subject to formal disciplinary action. College officials will engage in an educational follow-up and provide additional services as necessary for the assisted student.
When to Call?
- semiconscious or unconscious
- incoherent speech
- slowed or irregular breathing
- bluish or pale skin tones
Whom to Call?
- Public Safety: Dial 610-330-4444 off campus; or if you are on campus, extension 4444. Call the dispatcher and assert you are enacting the Good Samaritan Practice. Give specific information related to your situation and location. The dispatcher will send an officer to your location to assess the student’s condition and determine whether or not the student needs medical attention. You may be asked for additional information related to his/her condition. Please cooperate with the officer as s/he has the best interest of the student in mind. Timely and accurate information can help the officer better assess the student’s health risks.
- Residence Hall Staff: You can contact any RA/FHA/HR for assistance, though it’s preferable to contact the RA on Duty. A duty schedule is posted outside each staff member’s door. The staff member will assess the situation and may contact the Office of Public Safety for further assistance. Again, it is helpful to provide information related to how much he/she had to drink.