As classes begin at college campuses across the country, so do parties and the risk of severe alcohol intoxication, says an expert at Baylor College of Medicine. He gives tips on what to do and what not to do if someone you know is severely intoxicated.
“Alcohol is a depressant; when you consume too much of it, it impairs your judgment,” said Dr. Spencer Greene, assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at Baylor. “You should be worried about it when someone becomes unconscious or their respiration is inhibited to the point where they can’t breathe on their own.”
Greene says the main signs of severe alcohol intoxication include impaired judgment, lack of coordination, unresponsiveness and low blood pressure.
“If someone can’t maintain consciousness or if you are worried about their ability to breathe on their own, call 911,” said Greene, who is also director of medical toxicology in the departments of medicine and pediatrics at Baylor. “If it is bad enough that they are unconscious, don’t take them to the hospital yourself; call 911 because they may require interventions before they get to the hospital.”
He also offers the following tips:
- Don’t let them drink anymore
- Don’t induce vomiting – it won’t remove the alcohol and can increase the risk of aspiration, where the stomach contents end up in the lungs, causing problems with ventilation
- Don’t mix alcohol with other drugs – they can cause more damage
- Don’t mix alcohol with other stimulants
- Don’t give them coffee
- Don’t throw them in the shower
Greene emphasizes that as a layperson, there’s nothing you can do to make the person less drunk. While it won’t reverse the alcohol, drinking water is important and helpful because it can help prevent complications.
Greene says that if you are over 21 and plan to drink, prepare by eating food and staying hydrated. Be sure that you have a designated driver. Greene also cautions that everyone be aware of their sources for alcohol and not take drinks from strangers or leave drinks unattended.
He also warns against a new trend of heating up alcohol and inhaling the fumes to get drunk.
“It’s very dangerous because rapid intoxication can lead to unconsciousness,” said Greene.
Greene says that injuries are a common issue after a night of drinking, so be sure to drink in moderation and be aware of your surroundings.