It is very common to see a friend pass out after a night of heavy drinking. The Centers for Disease Control says that six people die every day from alcohol poisoning. Instead of assuming that your friend needs to sleep off the alcoholic effects, it is important for you to treat him or her to better save their life from alcohol poisoning.
Reasons People Pass Out When Drunk
Alcohol is a depressant that impacts the central nervous system which consists of your brain and spinal cord. This explains why heavy drinking causes you to make poor judgments as well as having trouble staying alert. Alcohol tends to release a huge amount of dopamine which is what makes you feel good. But the more you drink, the more your body builds up adenosine which makes you tired. Alcohol also affects the neurotransmitter glutamate which affects your brain function where you have trouble with your breathing and heart rate, making alcohol intoxication more dangerous. You could be drunk and hit your head and feel like you are fine to drive until you crash your car and choke on your own vomit.
If you spend time with someone who drinks four or more drinks in one sitting, you should inform them about how many drinks can result in a dangerous blood alcohol count. A standard beer is 12 ounces, wine is five ounces, and 80 proof spirits like rum or tequila is 1.5 ounces. Keep in mind how much your friend has eaten and how your body metabolizes alcohol.
What to Do If Your Friend Does Not Wake Up
It is easy to wake someone up if they are simply sleeping off their alcohol. Someone unconscious as a result of the alcohol can be harder. Susan Stoner, Ph.D., a research consultant at the University of Washington Alcohol & Drug Abuse Institute, says that if calling your friend’s name and rubbing their shoulders does not work, rub their sternum with your knuckles or pinch their earlobes to cause a little pain to wake them up. If they are still not responsive, they are most likely unconscious and could be at risk of death.
Other signs that your friend has overdosed on alcohol and needs medical attention is if they have clammy skin, confusion, pale skin, low body temperature, seizures, vomiting, trouble breathing, pausing for ten or more seconds between breaths, and reduced physical responses like the lack of a gag reflex that prevents choking. Do not take too long to decide whether or not to call 911 as not doing anything can increase your friend’s chances of death. Check for if your friend is breathing or able to respond to any of your attempts at waking them up. If your friend is vomiting while unconscious, turn your friend to their side or forward so that they do not choke. When emergency responders come, tell them everything that they need to know about your friend such as how much they drank, the kind of alcohol, any other drugs, a certain medical condition they have, and anything else that can be helpful for medical professionals to treat your friend.
Look After Your Friend
Alcohol is going to continue to leak from your friend’s stomach and small intestine into their bloodstream, causing their blood alcohol level to rise even after they have stopped drinking. If you think that your friend is simply sleeping off the alcohol, you may return hours later to see that your friend has stopped breathing or has choked on their own vomit. To see for sure if your friend is suffering from alcohol poisoning, check if they have impaired speech or motor skills, cannot drive, poor decision making, blacking out, vomiting, or losing consciousness. As soon as you notice these symptoms, call 911 immediately.
You should also make sure not to leave your friend alone. If this is happening at a party with a lot of people, you want to make sure that someone is not going to come along and take advantage of your friend through sexual assault. Do not be afraid to take you and your friend away from the situation by driving your friend home. If someone dropped you off to the party, call your ride or call a Lyft or an Uber to pick you and your friend up. Make sure that your location settings are on and to always have your phone charged.
How to Avoid Passing Out From Alcohol
The United States Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines says that drinking in moderation means that women should be drinking no more than one drink a day and no more than two drinks for men. In order to stay as safe as possible from passing out drunk, you should switch between an alcoholic beverage and a glass of water. The same goes for food as you should not have only alcohol in your system. Eat before and while you are drinking so that you do not absorb the alcohol too quickly. Only have no more than one drink every hour. You should also make sure that you communicate with your friend of how many drinks should be the limit. If you are both aware of what your body can and cannot handle, do not increase the number of drinks. By not leaving your friend alone and calling 911 if your friend passes out, you could be saving a life.
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