What to Do in an Alcohol Emergency

Emergency Icon

Alcohol overdose is serious. Left untreated, an alcohol overdose (a.k.a. alcohol poisoning) can cause a person to choke or suffocate on their own vomit, stop breathing, have a seizure, suffer brain damage, or die.

Review the warning signs below and don’t hesitate to call for help. Students who assist others in an emergency and those in need of assistance generally face no disciplinary action for their own infractions - even if alcohol or other drugs are involved. See Amnesty through Responsible Action for more information. If you are concerned but do not believe this is a life-threatening emergency, you may contact the NUHS physician on call when the Health Service is closed.

In an emergency, always call 911.

Signs of an Alcohol Overdose

  • Vomiting while passed out, not waking up after vomiting, or incoherent while vomiting.
  • Cannot wake the person even with loud shouting or by pinching the arm.
  • Breathing is slow or irregular (less than 10 breaths per minute).
    • Normal respiration is about 12-20 breaths/minute and has a relatively smooth in/out pattern.
  • Cold, clammy (i.e., cool but sweaty), ashen, pale or bluish skin, lips and/or nail beds.

What To Do

  • Call 911 if any of the above signs are present.
  • Stay with the person until help arrives.
    • Turn the person on their side to prevent choking in the event the person vomits.
  • Cooperate with emergency medical personnel. Give them as much information as possible, including any drugs or medications taken.

What NOT To Do

  • Do not let the person "sleep it off."
  • Do not hesitate to call 911. The person's life is in danger. Better to be safe than sorry.
  • Do not leave the person alone.
  • Do not leave the person lying on their back.
  • Do not try to give the person anything to eat or drink.
  • Do not put the person in a cold shower.

Want to know more? Sign up to attend a Red Watch Band Bystander Intervention Training on campus.