Headlines of USA Today proclaimed in October, 2011 that Amy Winehouse, who was well known to have been battling drug and alcohol abuse problems, ultimately died after drinking too much alcohol. She was found to have died of an “unintended consequence” of her drinking.

Her death was not ruled a suicide by the London coroner because she presumably didn’t realize that by drinking so much she pushed her blood alcohol level over five times the legal limit for drunk driving, and that this level was potentially fatal.

Her tragic death points out the actual risk factors involved in chronic excessive alcohol abuse. Amy was trying to battle the addiction according to this report, and had been prescribed, among other drugs, the sedative Librium to help her cope with the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, but clearly she couldn’t cope with those symptoms and literally drank herself to death.

Excessive drinking can cause death in many ways. One is the aspiration of vomit which can lead to asphyxiation; another is poisoning of the respiratory center in the brain. Of course, fatal automobile accidents and fights and violent crimes resulting in injury are some others.

Sadly, many college students and other young people who watch others drink excessively or even laugh at others who are passing out due to alcohol, later say they wish they’d sought medical attention for their friends. In many cases, these students end up feeling guilty for alcohol-related tragedies which could have been prevented.

Knowing the signs of alcohol poisoning would help, and also knowing what to do if one suspects someone they know has alcohol poisoning are crucial educational measures to prevent more needless deaths.

There are common myths about sobering up including taking a cold shower, drinking black coffee and sleeping it off. But these don’t work and could be dangerous as they overlook the fact that alcohol levels can keep climbing after drinking stops.

The only thing that reverses the effects of alcohol is time, which unfortunately is something your friend may not have if he is suffering from alcohol poisoning. Also, because many different factors affect the level of intoxication for each individual, it is hard to gauge exactly how much is too much alcohol consumption for one person.

Here is what happens to the body when it gets alcohol poisoning:

Alcohol depresses some of the nerves involved in involuntary actions of the body like breathing and the gag reflex which prevents choking.

Vomiting is a common response to alcohol drinking to excess, as alcohol is a stomach irritant. A person who is unconscious due to intoxication can inhale this vomit and therefore die of asphyxiation.

After a person has passed out in a drunken stupor, the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) can continue to rise in their body. This is because the alcohol in the stomach and intestines keeps being absorbed into the bloodstream and it circulates throughout the body. Therefore it is dangerous to think the person will be okay if you just let them sleep it off. Their BAC can reach such high levels that they stop breathing before the body can break down the alcohol into harmless components.

So, what should one do if you suspect your friend has alcohol poisoning? First, know the danger signs, such as mental confusion, stupor, coma, vomiting, seizures, slow breathing and irregular breathing. Also, hypothermia is a symptom of alcohol poisoning, which can be evaluated by the paleness or bluish color of the skin, as well as a cold feel to the body.

Second, don’t wait for all these symptoms to present themselves in your friend. If you see one or two, it is time to call 911 and get help. If your friend is unconscious due to excessive alcohol consumption, they may never wake up.

You can take action also by seeing that any friend or family member who uses alcohol to excess gets help at a reputable and effective drug and alcohol rehab center. Surprisingly, in a 2009 study, nearly two-thirds of all alcohol addicts never even seek help to recover from their addiction.

Narconon has been helping alcoholics and other drug addicts to get sober and straight and stay that way for over 45 years on six continents of the world.

Call a Narconon alcohol treatment center if you know someone who needs help with alcohol abuse.


Resouces:

http://www.usatoday.com/life/music/news/story/2011-10-26/amy-winehouse-pathologist/50927104/

http://www.collegedrinkingprevention.gov/otheralcoholinformation/factsaboutalcoholpoisoning.aspx

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