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New Mexico State University
New Mexico State University

Alcohol Poisoning

What You Know Could Save A Life

The ONLY THING that reverses the effects of alcohol is time. . . something you or your friends may not have if either of you is suffering from alcohol poisoning. Alcohol poisoning occurs when a large amount of alcohol is consumed, usually in a short period of time. The human body can process about 1 to 1.5 ounces of alcohol an hour. This is the amount contained in a single standard drink such as a 12-ounce bottle of beer, or a 5-ounce glass of wine. Mixed drinks contain much more alcohol. A Long Island iced tea is 5 drinks in 1!

Danger Signals

  • The person is unconscious. Be aware that a person who has passed out may die!
  • Breathing is less than 12 times a minute or stops all together for longer than 10 seconds
  • Mental confusion, stupor
  • Vomiting
  • Seizure
  • Skin and/or lips are cold, pale, bluish in color

What To Do:

Call 911 immediately if any of the above signs are present.

  • Stay with the person experiencing alcohol poisoning.
  • Gently prop him/her on his/her side while waiting for the ambulance.
  • This will prevent him/her from choking if the person vomits while unconscious.
  • Even if the person lives, alcohol poisoning can lead to irreversible brain damage.

BE AWARE! Binge drinking is especially dangerous because the person can ingest a fatal dose of alcohol before becoming unconscious

Anytime anyone has been drinking excessively, he or she should be watched carefully for risk signals (listed below) of impending alcohol poisoning:

  • Slurred Speech
  • Difficulty walking or standing up
  • Erratic Behavior
  • Inability to make eye contact or sustain a conversation
  • Feeling very ill, including vomiting

If you are concerned about someone who has had too much to drink, do not be afraid to seek medical help, or that your friend will be angry that you sought help for them. Better to be safe and have your friend alive and well.