Know What to Do in an Alcohol Emergency

Alcohol overdose is serious. Left untreated, an alcohol overdose (a.k.a. alcohol poisoning) can cause a person to choke or suffocate on his/her 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 generally face no disciplinary actions – even when alcohol and other drugs are involved. See the Responsible Action Protocol 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 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. Normal respiration is about 12-20 breaths/minute and has a relatively smooth in/out pattern.
  • Cold, clammy (i.e., cool but sweaty), 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 his/her 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 his/her 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 Training on campus.