Responding to Alcohol Medical Emergencies
Alcohol overdose is a medical emergency. If you see someone who has passed out and is unresponsive, or you suspect someone has overdosed on alcohol, it is your responsibility to get help by calling 911 immediately.
To check for an alcohol overdose, remember your ABCDE's:
- A: Awake - Attempt to wake the person by calling his or her name and lightly shaking him or her. If the person doesn't respond or wakes up but is confused and can't answer a simple question, turn the person onto his or her side to avoid choking if he or she vomits.
- B: Breathing - Check the person's breathing by looking for the chest to rise and fall or feeling for air to come out of the nose and mouth. The 10 Rule: If there are fewer than 10 breaths in one minute or more than 10 seconds between an inhale and an exhale, the respiratory system is depressing rapidly and the person needs medical attention.
- C: Circulation - Check the person's pulse on the neck or wrist. You can also see if the skin is cold, clammy, or a blue or grayish color.
- D: Don't leave the person alone - Lay the person on his or her side and don't leave.
- E: Emergency Assistance - If you discover ANY of the above problems or have any concerns about someone, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY. It is always better to be safe than sorry.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Overdose
- Mental confusion, coma, inability to wake up
- Slow breathing (less than ten breaths per minute)
- Irregular breathing (ten or more seconds between breaths)
- Low body temperature, bluish skin color, paleness
Alcohol is a depressant that can make parts of the brain that control involuntary functions like your breathing and gag reflex shut down. Serious risks from this include choking on vomit and depressed respiration that can cause a drinker to lapse into a coma, stop breathing, and die.
While waiting for emergency personnel:
- Keep an unconscious person on his or her side to keep him or her from choking if he or she should vomit.
- Use the Bacchus Maneuver to situate his or her body.
- Cooperate with emergency medical personnel or police, and give them accurate information.
- Don't worry about getting in trouble; your friend's life is more important. Minnesota has a Medical Amnesty Law to limit consequences for minors who call for emergency assistance so people who are at risk for alcohol overdose receive prompt medical attention.
Minnesota has a Medical Amnesty Law to ensure that people who are at risk for alcohol overdose receive prompt medical attention. If you call 911 for assistance for yourself or a friend and are under 21, you or your friend will be immune from criminal penalties related to underage drinking or possession of alcohol. However, any costs for hospitalization or a detoxification facility will be billed to the person needing attention. If you call for medical attention, you must remain with the person who needs it until help arrives in order to be covered under the Medical Amnesty law.
University Consequences for Someone Who Calls for Help
The University does not wish to punish students for making the right decision. Your first priority is to make sure help is called for someone who needs it.
In most instances a first offense for underage drinking would receive consequences that are educational in nature and would not result in a student being suspended, expelled, or evicted from campus housing.