Alcohol Poisoning

Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

  • Unconscious or semi-conscious and cannot be awakened
  • 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 not comprehensive.

What Can You Do to Help?

  • Call 911 immediately.
  • While waiting for help, 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.
  • 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

  • Continually monitor the intoxicated person.
  • Check their breathing, waking them often to be sure they are not unconscious.
  • An intoxicated person should not be put in charge of another intoxicated 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:
* Be Responsible About Drinking web site
* The University of California at Davis, Campus Alcohol & Drug Abuse Prevention Program