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“Sleeping It Off” Is A Dangerous Myth

By on May 13, 2019

Alcohol Overdose Requires Medical Attention

(Newark, NJ) – As spring turns to summer, poison control centers around the country see a spike in alcohol-related calls. It’s a time of year when alcohol-infused celebrations become commonplace; those who overindulge often pay the price for their risky drinking behaviors. Whether it’s a major milestone like prom or graduation, a backyard barbeque, a summer holiday weekend, or a day at the beach, drinking alcohol should always be done responsibly. Situations can quickly become dangerous when too much alcohol is involved; alcohol impairs both physical and mental abilities and can cause serious health effects especially when mixed with other substances like medicines (prescriptions, over-the-counters, dietary/herbal supplements).

Case: Teenage female was brought into an emergency room after drinking alcohol at a party and was put to bed by her parents. She vomited numerous times and ended up in a potentially life-threatening situation.

The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) considers alcohol to be one of the most commonly used addictive drugs by adults and teens in the United States today. “Alcohol poisoning is more common and life-threatening than many realize,” warns Bruce Ruck, Pharm.D., Managing Director of the NJ Poison Control Center at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School’s Department of Emergency Medicine. “Intoxication can lead to death or permanent brain damage. A person who consumes a fatal dose of alcohol may stop breathing or choke on their vomit while unconscious. As alcohol levels continue to rise in the body, a person who looks asleep may very well be unconscious.”

Drinking alcohol responsibly decreases the risk of dangerous health effects. When people do not know their limits, they often consume excessive amounts of alcohol in short periods of time (binge drinking), leading to dangerously high levels of alcohol in the body. Many factors influence the amount of time between drinking alcohol and feeling its intoxicating effects (i.e. gender, weight, how much food is in the stomach, hormones, metabolic rate, race). Some overindulge without realizing they have consumed too much alcohol.

Alcohol poisoning is preventable. Keep these important facts in mind; it could mean the difference between life and death.

  • “Sleeping it off” is never a safe option; time is the only thing that can reverse the effects of alcohol except time is not on your side when dealing with alcohol poisoning. A person who appears to be very drunk or has passed out may be showing early signs of alcohol poisoning and in real danger. Don’t guess, make the call; immediate medical help is required. Under the Overdose Prevention Act anyone who, in good faith, seeks medical assistance for an overdose victim is immune from arrest and prosecution, as is the person suffering the overdose. (https://nj.gov/oag/newsreleases13/pr20130702a.html)
  • Understand how much you’re drinking; because alcohol is a legally obtainable substance (by those 21+) many forget how potentially dangerous alcohol can be.  Some may consider how many drinks they’ve had, but don’t consider the volume or alcohol content of those drinks. A standard drink is said to be: 12 oz of beer (at 5% ABV*), 5oz of wine (12% ABV), or 1.5 oz of 80-proof liquor (40% ABV).  Whether at home, restaurant, or a party, most alcoholic drinks are not consistently measured, therefore, it is very difficult to know exactly how much alcohol a person is consuming. In addition, drinks today, especially craft beers, often have a much higher alcohol content than they did in the past. (*ABV stands for Alcohol by volume)
  • Know the critical signs of alcohol poisoning; alcohol poison is a real and life-threatening consequence of drinking alcohol. There are many myths surrounding the factors that can lead to alcohol poisoning, but it’s important to know that this can happen to anyone who consumes alcohol and to recognize the signs:
    – Mental confusion, stupor, coma (or person cannot be woken up)
    – Slow or irregular breathing
    – Blueish skin color or low body heat
    – Vomiting
    – Seizures

“If anyone, regardless of age, has concerns about the effects of alcohol, alcohol poisoning, or alcohol-related illnesses, the medical experts at the New Jersey Poison Control Center are a phone call away. As a medical emergency and information-based resource, our priority is to ensure the health and well-being of all New Jersey residents without hesitation or bias,” says Ruck.  All calls to the poison control center are confidential and free of charge.

If someone is unconscious, not breathing, hard to wake up, or seizing, call 9-1-1 immediately.
Help is Just a Phone Call Away!

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