WHAT ARE THE SIGNS OF ALCOHOL POISONING:
Alcohol poisoning signs and symptoms include:
- Slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
- Irregular breathing
- Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
- Low body temperature
- Passing out and can't be awakened
It's not necessary to have all these signs and symptoms before you seek help. A person who is unconscious or can't be awakened is at risk of dying.
IF A FRIEND SHOWS ANY OF THESE SIGNS OF ALCOHOL POISONING:
It is an emergency
If you're with someone who has been drinking a lot of alcohol and you see any of the signs or symptoms above, this is what you should do:
- Call 911.
- Be prepared to provide information. If you know, be sure to tell hospital or emergency personnel the kind and amount of alcohol the person drank, and when.
- Don't leave an unconscious person alone. Because alcohol poisoning affects the way your gag reflex works, someone with alcohol poisoning may choke on his or her own vomit and not be able to breathe. While waiting for help, don't try to make the person vomit because he or she could choke.
- Help a person who is vomiting. Try to keep him or her sitting up. If the person must lie down, make sure to turn his or her head to the side — this helps prevent choking. Try to keep the person awake to prevent loss of consciousness.
Passing out does not mean "sleeping it off". Blood alcohol content (BAC) can increase even after you stop drinking and/or fall asleep, and alcohol poisoning is still possible.
Don't be afraid to get help
It can be difficult to decide if you think someone is drunk enough to warrant medical attention. You may worry about the consequences for yourself or your friend or loved one, especially if you're underage. But the consequences of not getting the right help in time can be far more serious. See the GVSU Medical Amnesty Policy
Step 1 - Prepare
- Learn more about alcohol abuse. You may want to speak to a professional on campus or in the community who can help you plan for what to say and how to start the conversation. Also, gather information about local resources that are available to support those in recovery.
- Gather a list of incidents when your friend's drinking has concerned you. For example, last Monday your friend stayed up all night partying and drinking when they had an exam at 8:00 a.m. Tuesday morning.
- Choose an appropriate location and time. A private location where you will not be interrupted is best. Also, make sure your friend is sober; it is impossible to reason with a person who is drunk. Talking to your friend a day or two after your friend has been drinking irresponsibly may make more of an impact than many days later.
Step 2 - Have a Discussion
- Let your friend know that you care. Explain to them how you feel about their alcohol use. For example, "You act like a different person when you are drinking and this is hurting our friendship." Keep the discussion focused on your observations and do not use second-hand information such as, "I heard that you insulted so-and-so while drinking."
- Tell them how their drinking is affecting you and use "I" statements to explain. For example, "I find it difficult to be around you when you have been drinking."
- List the negative effects that you have seen alcohol have on your friend's life. These areas may include alcohol-related health problems, blackouts or memory loss, poor grades, missing class/work, consequences with the law (MIPs, DUIs, etc.) or declining relationships with family and friends.
- Expect denial. Chances are it will not be easy for your friend to admit that they have a problem with alcohol. Admitting this can be shameful so make sure that you affirm your friend's positive attributes. Be prepared to talk with your friend multiple times if they deny there is a problem.
- Don't judge or criticize.
Step 3 - Aim for Progress, Not Perfection
In some cases, even though your friend agrees that there is a problem, they may be unable or unwilling to act as quickly or directly as you would like. Keep in mind that alcohol-related habits are hard to end or control. If your friend is struggling, try to:
Remain supportive by recognizing the effort your friend puts into even small attempts to limit drinking.
Help your friend make contact with other recovering problem drinkers. Recovery Meetings are offered on campus
Encourage non-drinking behavior by planning activities not related to alcohol and by limiting your own drinking when you are with your friend.
Give them a list of campus and community recovery resources that you have gathered.
Offer to go with them to see a counselor at the GVSU University Counseling Center
Helping a friend with a drinking problem is not easy, but it is very important! Know that you are not alone and use resources to help you and your friend. Make sure to take good care of yourself in the process. If you have any questions about how to start this conversation with your friend, do not hesitate to contact the counseling center to discuss resources.
How much is too much?
Unlike food, which can take hours to digest, alcohol is absorbed quickly by your body — long before most other nutrients. And it takes a lot more time for your body to get rid of the alcohol you've consumed.
Most alcohol is processed by your liver, and in general, it takes about one hour for your liver to process (metabolize) the alcohol in one drink.
One drink is defined as:
- 12 ounces (355 milliliters) of regular beer (about 5 percent alcohol)
- 8 to 9 ounces (237 to 266 milliliters) of malt liquor (about 7 percent alcohol)
- 5 ounces (148 milliliters) of wine (about 12 percent alcohol)
- 1.5 ounces (44 milliliters) of 80-proof hard liquor (about 40 percent alcohol)
All drinks are not equivalent. A standard drink of wine is very different than a standard drink of beer or liquor. Mixed drinks may contain more than one serving of alcohol and take even longer to metabolize. Additionally, when you go out to a bar or restaurant, the drink you order is probably more than a standard drink. So keep in mind that your one or two drinks may actually be more.
FOUR THINGS TO WATCH
1. Watch the amount of alcohol being consumed
Mix your own drinks and use standard measures to avoid mixing drinks too strong. Make sure the bartender does the same. Know how much alcohol is in one standard drink.
One standard drink equals:
12-ounce beer (5% alcohol); 5-ounce glass of wine (12 % alcohol); 1.5-ounce shot of liquor (80 proof) Remember, if a mixed drink contains two shots (3 ounces) then it is no longer one standard drink, it is two!
2. Watch how many
Women, do not consume more than 2-3 alcoholic drinks in one sitting and men not more than 3-4. Also, never drink more than one drink per hour. Drinking more than this can result in a loss of self-control, embarrassment, and sexual or physical violence
3. Watch your drink
Leaving your drink around unknown party attendees increases the risk of tampering. Remember: Alcohol is the #1 date rape drug!
4. Watch the law
When you are under 21, even if you are being responsible, there are legal and school consequences to drinking which may include fines, loss of your driver's license, and required treatment. These penalties may result in a criminal record and could have an impact on your future career or academic plans.
- Ride only with a sober driver: Designate a driver before you go to the party and make sure this person stays responsible and does not consume any alcohol.
- Eat shortly before or while you consume alcohol: Food helps to slow the absorption of alcohol into the circulatory system.
- Alternate alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks: Use water or fruit juices as "spacers", and healthier alternatives, between alcoholic drinks to give your body more time to metabolize the alcohol and decrease the amount of alcohol in your system.
- Be aware of mixing alcohol with carbonated beverages: Carbonation increases the speed that alcohol is absorbed.
- Do not drink alcohol while taking medication or using drugs: Over-the-counter, prescription, and illicit drugs can have harmful effects when mixed with alcohol. Consult a pharmacist or physician.
- Consume alcohol slowly: Sip, do not guzzle drinks and avoid drinking games where a large amount of alcohol is consumed in a short amount of time. Generally, people consume more alcohol when they drink faster or try to play "catch up".
- Friends don't let friends date drunk: Stick with friends. Go to parties in pairs or in groups. Avoid leaving anyone there alone, especially if he or she is intoxicated. Alcohol is involved in 90% of campus rapes.
- Do not make drinking alcohol the focus of the party: Discourage drinking games and provide alternate forms of entertainment and non-alcoholic drinks so everyone can be a part of the party.
- Be careful who you invite: Invite only people that you know and those who are responsible partygoers. Remember the larger the number of attendees, the less likely you will be able to keep things under control and know what is going on.
- Never provide alcohol to individuals under 21 years of age: Doing so can result in fines of $1,000 or more, and up to 60 days in jail.
- Monitor the amount of alcohol being consumed: Never provide large, unlimited amounts of alcohol to your guests. For example, avoid "jungle juice" bowls or kegs that are not monitored.
- Never allow intoxicated individuals to drive: If someone leaves your party and injures themselves or someone else you can be held liable!
- To avoid this, Plan Ahead: Before the party begins, decide how you will stop those who try to drive home when intoxicated. Have transportation options: call a cab or have a sober driver take intoxicated individuals home.
Alternatives to Drinking
GVSU and the surrounding community offer many fun activities and opportunities that don't include alcohol. If you explore different clubs hosted on campus and invite people to different events, you’re sure to find like-minded people that you can have fun with. Here are just a few ideas of things you can do that don’t have to involve alcohol.
This is just a short list. Talk to a friend, classmate, professor, or your RA for other ideas, or check out the Events Calendar.