Watch those summer party drinks: Alcohol poisoning is no joke
With summertime activities upon us, there's more time to socialize and gain easy access to booze, leaving the risk for alcohol poisoning.
The New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers gets daily phone calls about both alcohol poisoning and withdrawal from alcohol, according to Bruce Ruck, managing director at The New Jersey Poison Information and Education System.
Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include mental confusion, stupor, coma (where a person cannot be woken up), slow or irregular breathing and heart rate, blueish skin color, low body temperature (hypothermia), increased blood pressure, vomiting and seizures.
Vomiting can be dangerous if someone falls asleep after drinking. They can choke on their vomit.
Toxic amounts of alcohol can cause the areas of the brain responsible for life support functions such as breathing and heart rate to slow and eventually shut down.
Ruck said "sleeping it off" is never a safe option for those who have had a lot to drink. A person who appears to be very drunk or has passed out may be showing early signs of alcohol poisoning and be in danger. As dangerous changes continue inside a body, a person who appears to be sleeping may in fact be unconscious and in a coma.
He said it's not about the number of drinks someone had, it's about the alcohol content of those drinks.
The effects of alcohol are often delayed. Many factors influence the amount of time between drinking alcohol and feeling its intoxicating effects — gender, weight, how much food is in the stomach, hormones and metabolic rate. It can take anywhere between a half hour and a couple of hours before someone sees the total effects of what one has consumed. The more alcohol one consumes, the longer it will take to see those effects.
"People will drink a little bit and say oh, I'm not buzzed, I'm going to drink some more. Then by the time they know it, they're unconscious from drinking way too much," said Ruck.
Don't guess if someone might be suffering from alcohol poisoning. Ruck said if someone is unconscious or not breathing, call 911 immediately. If someone is breathing but you're not sure what to do, call The NJ Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. They will help walk someone through the situation at hand.