Alcohol Poisoning

How to Recognize Alcohol Poisoning

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

  • Unconscious or semi-consciousness and cannot be awakened.
  • There is no response to pinching the skin or other physical stimuli (gentle shaking, etc.)
  • The person vomits while passed out and does not wake up during or after.
  • The person has seizures.
  • Slow respiration (breaths) of eight or less per minute or lapses between breaths of more than eight seconds.
  • Irregular breathing.
  • Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin -especially around the lips and nose. In the event of alcohol poisoning, these signs and symptoms will most likely be accompanied by a strong odor of alcohol. While these are obvious signs of alcohol poisoning, the list is certainly not all inclusive.

What Can You Do to Help?

  • Call 911 immediately Do what you would do in any medical emergency—call immediately.
  • While waiting for 911 emergency transport, gently turn the intoxicated person on his/her side and maintain that position by placing a pillow in the small of the person’s back. This is important to prevent aspiration (choking) should the person vomit.
  • Stay with the person until medical help arrives.
  • If a person appears to be “sleeping it off” it is important to realize that even though a person may be semi-conscious, alcohol already in the stomach may continue to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. The person’s life may still be in danger.
  • Do not wait for all of the signs to appear and do not try to guess the level of drunkenness
  • Do not leave the person alone
  • Place the person on his or her side
  • If vomiting occurs, clear the airway by sweeping vomited material out of their mouth
  • Monitor their breathing and heart rate
  • If breathing and heart rate cease, begin CPR

How to Help an Intoxicated Friend

When a friend is Intoxicated:

  • CHECK THEIR BREATHING, waking them often to be sure they are not unconscious.
  • A DRUNK PERSON should not be put in charge of another drunk person.
  • DO NOT exercise the person.
  • DO NOT allow the person to drive a car or ride a bicycle.
  • DO NOT give the person food, liquid, medicines or drugs to sober them up.
  • DO NOT give the person a cold shower; the shock of the cold could cause unconsciousness.


Adapted from/Sources:
Be Responsible About Drinking web site
The University of California at Davis, Campus Alcohol & Drug Abuse Prevention Program
Norfork (MA) District Attorney’s web page

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