The Citadel

The Military College of South Carolina

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Alcohol Poisoning

Signs & Symptons

Suspect alcohol poisoning if you notice several of the following signs and symptoms co-occurring:

  • Evidence of alcohol use (e.g., smell of alcohol, shot glasses, empty cans or bottles).
  • Person has mental confusion (does not know the time of day or the day of the week).
  • Person cannot stand or walk without help.
  • Person is vomiting.
  • Person is having seizures.
  • Person cannot be roused or has a slow reaction to external stimuli (e.g., no reaction or slow reaction to a skin pinch).
  • Person has very slow OR shallow breathing.
  • Person seems pale or has bluish skin color.
  • The last four signs are VERY SERIOUS and require immediate medical attention – CALL 911!

 

Intervention Techniques

If you are dealing with a severely intoxicated person who is belligerent or uncooperative, try the following:

  • Remain calm.
  • Assess the situation (who, what, where, when, how).
  • Do not make any assumptions.
  • Keep voice calm and low; do not shout.
  • Identify yourself and tell the person you are concerned about his/her safety.
  • Try to find a safe and quite area to talk to the person, but do not force him/her to go.
  • Be sincere and friendly but make clear, precise statements.
  • DO NOT be confrontational!
  • Use “I” statements when communicating (e.g., I’m concerned, I’d like to help, I need to explain…).
  • Give a reason for what you are doing if/when possible.
  • Solicit the support of a friend of the intoxicated person.
  • Avoid appearing taller or larger than the other person appears. For example, if you are standing while the other person is sitting, you will appear “bigger” and possibly more “threatening” than if you are sitting next to the person.

 

First Aid

If you suspect alcohol poisoning, consider the following safety techniques:

  • Do not leave the person alone.
  • Protect the person from injury.
  • Keep the person still and comfortable.
  • Make sure the person is on his/her side, not on his/her back or stomach. Make sure the airway remains open in case the person vomits. If possible, prop something behind the person to ensure he/she does not roll over.
  • DO NOT give the person food or liquid because it might make him/her vomit.
  • DO NOT give the person a cold shower.
  • DO NOT try to restrain the person.
  • If the person becomes unresponsive, get emergency medical care – CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY!
  • AND REMEMBER THIS IMPORTANT POINT: A person’s blood alcohol level can continue to rise even after a person has passed out or has stopped drinking.
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