Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol Poisoning is a medical emergency. Signs and symptoms include:

  • Unconsciousness (unable to wake a person) or semi-consciousness (may wake up but falls asleep again)
  • Slow respiration (breaths) of eight or less per minute or lapses between breaths of more than ten seconds
  • Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin (feels like a cold, wet fish)
  • Strong odor of alcohol two shot glasses

Appropriate action:

  • Immediately call 911 (if in the residence halls, get your RA or Hall Director), if you call UNC Police from your cell phone call (970) 351-2245. (911 from a cell phone will go the Weld County dispatch center not to the UNC Police dispatch center.)
  • Gently turn the intoxicated person on his/her side and maintain that position by placing a pillow in the small of the person's back. This is important to prevent choking should the person vomit.
  • Stay with the person until medical help arrives.
  • If you have been drinking yourself, get help from someone who is sober.  Since you have been drinking you may make a bad decision or fall asleep.

Things NOT to do:

  • Do not try to give a grossly intoxicated person food or water.  They will likely choke on the food and the water may go into their lungs.
  • Do not try to give them a shower.  You will risk dropping them in the shower causing a serious injury, plus a shower isn’t going to help at all.
  • Underestimate the seriousness of the situation.  Call for help if you are in doubt.  The Colorado Safe Haven Law protects people under the age of 21 from receiving a Minor in Possession charge if they call for help and cooperate with the police and emergency personnel. 

If a person appears to be "sleeping it off" it is important to realize that even though a person may be semi-conscious, alcohol already in the stomach may continue to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. The person's life may still be in danger. If you are having difficulty in determining whether an individual is acutely intoxicated, contact a health professional immediately -- you cannot afford to guess.