Oct 302005
Authors: Kristen Majors

If a person has any of the following symptoms, call 911:

  • Unconscious or semi-conscious
  • Breathing few than 10 times per minute or irregularly
  • Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin
  • Can't be awakened by pinching, prodding or shouting
  • Vomiting without waking up


Death from alcohol poisoning happens when someone doesn't take a person in a questionable state to the hospital or call an ambulance. Some ask if it's that easy to save a life, why do people die from drinking too much.

"No person should feel afraid of calling for help because they feel there's going to be some sort of repercussion," said Corporal Yvonne Paez, a public information officer for the CSU Police Department. "You should be able to call for help for yourself or a friend without having fear that you're going to get cited."

Paez said the rule-of-thumb is that if a police officer encounters an intoxicated person who is underage, the officer will probably cite him or her; however, if the underage drinker calls for help, he or she will not be cited.

Upon arriving at the hospital, whether the person is brought in by a friend or by ambulance, the drinker will receive an evaluation to determine what type of care he or she needs. At Poudre Valley Hospital, a crisis assessment team performs the evaluation in the emergency room.

"(The team will) assess as to whether they need medical detoxification, regular detoxification or taken home," said Dan Bennett, a therapist for Mountain Crest Mental Health Services (CQ)kd. "Their BAC (blood alcohol content) is checked; they are checked for a seizure history and checked if they are suicidal or a danger to themselves."

In regular detoxification, the drinker basically just waits out the alcohol's effects under close supervision. During medical detoxification, the person is given medication to reduce the risk of seizures and withdrawal.

If a person is thought to have consumed enough alcohol to be in danger of death from alcohol poisoning, charcoal will be placed in the stomach to absorb the poison.

"If somebody's had way too much to drink and we know it's enough to kill themselves, that would be a good time to do that – to hold the poison so it doesn't actually kill the person," Bennett said.

After the danger has passed and the person has sobered up, they are faced with a hefty hospital bill. Some insurance plans may cover part of the visit to the emergency room, but the final bill varies from person to person.

Minneke Van Noordt, freshman open option major, said she faced the decision of whether or not to take a drunken person to the hospital and has always decided not to.

"I'd had experience before with people that had passed out on the couch and they'd had a lot to drink, and they ended up being okay," Van Noordt said. "I guess I thought it best not to put them in a situation that could have consequences to them if it was unnecessary."

Van Noordt said she usually determines whether or not someone needs help by observing their level of consciousness and if they are able to hear and speak.

"If you know them pretty well, you know how much they can handle," she said. "If you know they've had way more than they can handle, it's probably a good idea to keep an eye on them and check to make sure they are still conscious."

Bennett said the two major dangers of drinking too much are death from alcohol poisoning and death from choking on vomit.

"The problem we have with the alcohol thing is that people don't think it looks that bad," Paez said. "We sometimes look at it differently and don't consider it as high a risk as it actually is. When in doubt, call."

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