Alcohol Poisoning
Alcohol Poisoning

I am writing this in mid September. In regards to alcohol poisoning, this academic year is off to a dismal start. I spoke to administrators at three different campuses who are extremely concerned about high-risk drinking. One campus experienced an alcohol poisoning death of a sophomore in their first week, plus had 12 hospital transports within their first three weeks. Another had 6 transports of sophomore students within the first two weeks. The third experienced 9 transports in just two weeks.

Alcohol poisoning takes the lives of 300 students annually on campuses nationwide. Students are drinking higher quantities at one setting, thus increasing their risk for alcohol poisoning.

The body can only clear one drink per hour. When more is consumed, the brain absorbs the excess alcohol, causing one area of the brain after another to systematically shut down. The area that controls our higher rational thinking shuts down first - next up, the area that regulates the balance of fluid in the body. Then the coordination goes. Finally when so much alcohol has flooded into the brain, the medulla or brain stem shuts down. The medulla controls our involuntary reflexes like heart rate and respiration. This is alcohol poisoning.

If someone is passed out, cold, clammy, the skin is a bluish color, you can't shout them awake, or shake them awake, they are experiencing alcohol poisoning. The clamminess occurs because the body is loosing its ability to regulate temperature. Then the breathing and heart rate eventually shuts down. These people are close to death and need medical attention immediately ? call for help!

In most scenarios underage drinkers fear they will be cited for underage drinking if they call for help, so the person is carried off to a couch or bed to sleep it off. Friends come back the next day and find them dead. Parents who have lost their children to alcohol poisoning advocated for campuses and some states to enact Medical Amnesty or Good Samaritan laws. If underage drinkers call for help for someone experiencing alcohol poisoning, they will not be cited for underage drinking. We don't want to discourage them from getting the medical attention that is so badly needed. Preventing alcohol poisoning is a priority so we should look at why students drink excessively. The need to loosen up in a social setting is the number one reason for abusing alcohol. Learn to feel comfortable with yourself. Having confidence and feeling good about who you are will enable you to have a good time without depending on alcohol as a social lubricant. Studies are showing that those under the age of 21 who use alcohol to loosen up in a social setting, tend to carry that pattern with them through their adult life. Many abusive patterns with alcohol begin in college.

What quantities are considered high-risk? If a male consumes five drinks and a female four within a two hour period of time, the blood alcohol will rise to .08. That person is now legally drunk. One drink is 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of hard liquor. People are drinking from much larger containers and are consuming more than they realize. Wine glasses are wider than they use to be and hold more. The red Solo cup when filled holds 16 ounces, so you are consuming a drink and a third.

The blood alcohol continues to climb for an hour and a half after a person has consumed their last drink. You can't sober a person up by placing them in a cold shower or pouring coffee down their throats. Time is the only thing that will accomplish this by giving the liver the opportunity to break down the alcohol.

Women are trying to keep up with the guys, but they can't consume alcohol the same way that men can. Alcohol gets absorbed into our blood stream faster. We have a higher ratio of body fat than men. The alcohol collects in the fatty tissue and does not break down as quickly. Lastly women have a lower amount of the enzyme that metabolizes the alcohol.

How can one drink with low risk? The rule of thumb - consume no more than one drink per hour. You can catch a light buzz but not get wasted by overloading the body and brain with too much alcohol. Drink a non alcoholic beverage in between each one. You will give the liver a chance to break down the alcohol and re-hydrate the body so you feel better the next day. Keep an eye out for one another - don't be afraid to tell a friend that they need to slow down. Also, keep in mind, if everyone is getting wasted, who will have the ability to know when things are turning for the worse?


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