Alcohol Poisoning and First Aid

Alcohol Poisoning and First Aid

When you consume too much alcohol too fast, it acts as a poison. Sometimes if you drink too much, you vomit or pass out. This is your body’s way of protecting itself from absorbing any more alcohol (if you pass out, you won’t be able to drink anymore alcohol).

When you drink a lot really fast, you may not pass out in time, and instead alcohol in your stomach and intestines continue to enter your bloodstream and the results could be fatal. An unconscious body will still try to expel the poison by vomiting, and you could choke on the vomit and end up in a coma or even die.


  • Cold, clammy, pale or bluish skin
  • Slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • Seizures
  • Mental confusion. Stupor or the unconsciousness or “sleeping” person cannot be awaken
  • Vomiting while “sleeping” or passed out, and not waking up after

If you recognize any of these signs in someone who you know has been drinking, you need to act immediately to save their life- do not wait for all symptoms to be present, do something now- GET MEDICAL HELP! There have been too many occasions when a caring friend has helped a drunk friend to bed to “sleep it off”, only to find them dead in the morning.

It doesn’t matter if the drinker is underage or not supposed to drink for whatever reason. If you suspect that someone may be suffering from acute alcohol poisoning, call 911. Do not ask 20 people for their opinion before you do this- you could cost your friend their life. Next, use the Bacchus Maneuver to roll them into the recovery position so they won’t choke if they vomit. Start CPR if they stop breathing, or find someone with first aid training to do it for you. Stay with the person until medical help arrives.

  • Hypothermia (extremely low body temperature)
  • Breathing slows and becomes irregular or stops
  • Heart beats irregular or stops
  • Hypoglycaemia- too little blood sugar, which leads to seizures
  • Untreated severe dehydration from vomiting

Even if the person lives, an alcohol overdose can lead to irreversible brain damage.

This is important and can save lives!

Here are the do’s and don’ts:


  • Look out for people. Make sure if they’ve gone to lie down, that it’s in a safe place
  • Maker certain they’re breathing and their mouth is empty
  • Put them in the recovery position- if they pass out and vomit, they won’t choke
  • Stay with the intoxicated person and wake them frequently. If alcohol levels continue to rise, the person may become unconscious.
  • Call an ambulance if they stop breathing or can’t stop throwing up
  • Start CPR if breathing stops or find someone with first aid training to perform CPR immediately.



  • Never ignore someone who is having a bad time or is sick
  • Don’t give the person a cold shower; the shock of the cold could cause unconsciousness
  • Don’t give the semiconscious person food or fluid’s (not even water) it could cause vomiting, choking or aspiration.
  • Never leave someone alone if they’ve passed out
  • Don’t panic, even if things aren’t going to plan. You must stay calm.


Here is how to put a Friend into Recovery Position:

  1. Raise his or her closest arm above their head. Bend at the knee, the leg furthest from you. Prepare to roll the person towards you
  2. Gently roll as a unit. Guard the headas you roll the person
  3. Tilt head to maintain airway. Tuck nearest hand under cheek to help maintain head tilt.
  4. Check on the person often. If you have any concerns that your friend may be suffering from acute alcohol poisoning, get medical help immediately.


If you or a friend need help on campus, there are emergency first aid personnel on campus 24/7. Call 403-329-2345 (2345 from and in-house phone)