According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, alcohol is the most commonly abused drug among youths in the United States and is responsible for more than 4,300 deaths of underage people annually. Underage drinkers are more likely than adults to consume alcohol in the form of binge drinking, defined as consuming approximately five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women within two hours.
ER physician Dr. Travis Stork warns that this type of excessive alcohol abuse, especially by young or underage drinkers who are not familiar with the effects of alcohol, can easily result in a medical emergency. Excessive drinking can result in alcohol poisoning, which impacts the brain’s ability to control basic life-support functions, such as breathing, heart rate and temperature control, and can lead to coma and death.
Dr. Travis describes the following warning signs of alcohol poisoning:
- Mental confusion
- Snoring/gasping for air
- Throwing up
- Erratic breathing
- Loss of consciousness
- Paleness/blueness of skin
If you see an individual exhibiting any of these warning signs, call emergency services immediately. While waiting for assistance, gently turn the individual onto his or her side, do not leave them unattended, and be prepared to administer CPR if necessary.