Alcohol & Other Drug Abuse Prevention

Alcohol Poisoning and Emergency Care

Signs of Alcohol Poisoning

Use “PUBS” as a guide to the symptoms of alcohol overdose

Puking while passed out
Unresponsive to stimulation (pinch or shaking)
Breathing (slow, shallow or no breathing)
Skin (blue, cold or clammy)

If you see even one sign of alcohol overdose – Call 911

Guidelines for Obtaining Medical Assistance

  • Call 911 and identify yourself to the 911 operator.
  • State your problem and what you feel you need.
  • Give the specific location of the incident and the phone number.
  • Stay there until help arrives and call your chapter officer or a sober brother/sister/friend.

DO NOT administer anything orally (food, coffee, water, etc.). It can induce vomiting.
DO NOT give the person a cold shower. The shock could cause the person to pass out and result in injuries.
DO NOT try to exercise the person. The person could fall and cause injury.
DO NOT try to restrain the person without (sober) assistance.

How to Help a Friend

First Aid for Intoxicated People

If a person is drunk and belligerent, it is best not to be verbally confrontational or aggressive in any way. Joking, kidding, bargaining, and enlisting the help of friends are the best ways to deal with a belligerent person. It is important to speak clearly and calmly and to try to coax the person to a quiet place where he/she can calm down. If repeated attempts to calm the person down are unsuccessful, it is best to enlist outside intervention.

REMEMBER: An intoxicated person is not rational. The alcohol has affected judgment, and you cannot reason with him/her. The person may become violent and uncooperative and you may need to prevent harm to yourself or others. If the person is being destructive and uncontrollable, call for assistance, up to and including the police. If a person is very intoxicated and staggering, vomiting or passing/passed out, he/she may need emergency care. Try to get the individual in bed and follow the guidelines listed below.

Guidelines for Immediate Care

Try to wake the person. Try to wake the person by calling their name, slapping their face, or pinching their skin. See if you can get a reaction that will wake the person up. Remember, just because he/she wakes up does not mean they are fine.

BAC can continue to rise after one stops drinking. Alcohol stays in the bloodstream until it is processed and just because you can get some reaction at 1:00 AM doesn’t mean he/she will still be conscious by 2:00 AM. Never leave a person alone to sleep it off.

  • Protect the person from injury.
  • Keep the person still and comfortable.
  • Stay with a drunk person who is vomiting.
  • If the person is in bed, make sure the person is on his/her side—not on his/her back. If they are not conscious or barely able to wake up, begin by making sure he/she does not choke on his/her vomit. Start by putting his/her arm above his/her head. Bend his/her opposite knee and roll him/her toward you so that he/she is laying on his/her side, preferably his/her left side. Putting the person on his/her left side will slow the delivery of alcohol to the small intestine and also allows more air to surface from the right lung. This way, if he/she does throw up, the vomit will have a better chance of coming out.
  • Speak in a clear, firm, soothing voice. Comfort and reassure the person.
  • If the person is unresponsive, call 911 or follow your campus emergency procedures, immediately. Hesitating can mean the difference between life and death.
  • If the situation has the potential to get worse overnight or you feel uncomfortable handling it, call 911.


Stand by your decision. Stand up for your friendship. Do the right thing based on your best judgment and your knowledge of alcohol poisoning. You are always doing the right thing by getting help.

Source: Gordie Center for Substance Abuse Prevention at the University of Virginia

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