How to recognize and deal with alcohol poisoning

Kennedy Mason

Alcohol poisoning is a serious disease that can not only land people in the hospital, but if untreated, it can also be fatal. It is important for college students and young adults to recognize the signs of alcohol poisoning.

“Alcohol poisoning is when you consume too much alcohol and your body can’t absorb it all at that time,” said Austin Henshaw, a prevention services graduate assistant.

Alcohol poisoning is largely caused by binge drinking. This is considered to be five or more drinks for men in a short period of time and three to four drinks for women, said Nikki Dempsey, a social worker and substance abuse counselor at Mary Greeley Medical Center.

“Typically, any college drinking is binge drinking,” Dempsey said.

The most important way to recognize alcohol poisoning is to watch the behavior of a person, Henshaw said. Typical signs could include excessive vomiting, unconsciousness, chills, very slow breathing, cold or clammy skin and discoloration of the skin and face.

If someone is displaying these signs, it is important to call 911 immediately, Dempsey said.

“Don’t be afraid to call for help. The police don’t want to get people in trouble, they just want to help the students at ISU,” said Kipp Van Dyke, program coordinator in the dean of students office, who meets with students to discuss safe drinking habits throughout the year.

While on the phone with 911, it is important to put the person on his or her side so he or she doesn’t choke on vomit. Also, make sure someone else is there at all times. Henshaw also said to listen to what the 911 dispatcher has to say.

“You want to avoid giving the person more water or food because they can choke on it,” Henshaw said. “You also don’t want to give them a shower because it can send them into shock.”

If someone has been drinking, don’t leave his or her side, Dempsey said. He said people will not get in trouble if they call for help and shouldn’t leave their friend because they fear that happening.

Van Dyke said to really understand how to prevent alcohol poisoning, people have to understand what alcohol does to their individual bodies. People should know how their body metabolizes the alcohol and should track the amount they drink.

“You always want to drink on a full stomach. The first drink always goes into the bloodstream, but if you eat ahead of time, it slows it down,” Dempsey said.

While alcohol can affect each individual person differently, it tends to affect men more, Henshaw said. It takes less alcohol for women to get alcohol poisoning, but they aren’t as likely to drink as much as some men do.

Not only does this affect how people feel the next day, Henshaw said, but if this is something that is repeated time and time again, there could be effects on a person’s liver and brain cells.

“Look out for each other, and don’t pressure others to drink,” Van Dyke said.