Each weekend at Cherry Point, service members and civilians alike spend time with friends and family enjoying each other, hanging out, and taking part in their favorite activities. People work hard during the week and when it comes to their free time and liberty, they like to have a good time. Having fun looks a little different for everyone and can sometimes include friends sharing a few alcoholic beverages together. Most people who consume alcohol do so in a responsible manner and get to experience its more pleasant effects while remaining low risk. There are some though, who may choose to consume alcohol in more high-risk quantities and put themselves at risk for experiencing some of alcohols more disagreeable outcomes. I would like to take a moment today to talk about what happens when a person consumes so much alcohol that it becomes detrimental to health and survival.
Alcohol poisoning is generally defined as consuming enough alcohol that it becomes toxic to the body and threatens to interfere with basic functions like breathing and heart rate. According to the Centers for Disease Control, approximately six Americans die each day from alcohol poisoning. Countless others are treated for alcohol overdoses which can have more serious long term consequences such as brain damage. Alcohol in low-risk quantities, meaning no more than three drinks on one occasion, generally does not lead to alcohol toxicity in most individuals. Alcohol poisoning typically occurs when individuals engage in binge drinking behaviors or in other words, consume enough alcohol to become drunk or impaired.
What does alcohol poisoning actually look like? Below are some of the signs and symptoms you might observe in a drunk or impaired individual who has alcohol poisoning (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism):
• Mental confusion, stupor
• Difficulty remaining conscious, or inability to wake up
• Slow breathing (fewer than 8 breaths per minute)
• Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
• Slow heart rate
• Clammy skin
• Dulled responses, such as no gag reflex (which prevents choking)
• Extremely low body temperature, bluish skin color, or paleness
How do we respond if we see some of these signs in a person? With alcohol poisoning, time is of the essence. The first step is to contact 911 for immediate help. Be prepared to give 911 as much information as possible including how much the individual drank, any other substances they may have ingested, as well as important health information about the individual. Alcohol poisoning is a serious and life-threatening condition that cannot be resolved through simple actions like taking a cold shower, food, coffee, or “sleeping it off.” When possible, try to keep the person sitting on the ground in an upright and slightly forward position. If they are passed out or unconscious, roll the person on their side. Positioning a person in this manner will help avoid choking if they vomit. Most importantly, never leave the person alone. Stay with them until medical help arrives.
When we look for these signs and follow proper steps to seek care for someone with possible alcohol poisoning, we may very well save his life. Alcohol poisoning can be fatal in some circumstances but can also have permanent consequences for an individual who survives. Since alcohol poisoning affects respiration and circulation, a survivor can be left with lasting brain damage due to oxygen deprivation. Alcohol poisoning also has detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system and can cause a person’s heart to beat irregularly or stop altogether.
Next time you decide to consume alcohol, try some of the following tips for remaining low risk and avoiding some of the consequences of alcohol misuse:
• Consume no more than one standard drink per hour
• Ensure you have food in your stomach or consume food while drinking
• Limit yourself to no more than three drinks on any occasion
• Do not consume alcohol with medication or other impairing substances
It is important to remember, alcohol is not necessary to have a good time. Everyone has passions or things that interest them. I encourage you to seek out new activities and find ways to get involved in recreation that you enjoy. We have several resources here at MCAS Cherry Point to get you involved in meeting others and having fun such as the Single Marine Program, Semper Fit, AutoSkilz, and the library just to name a few. You can also check out this resource guide that outlines many of the local activities and attractions you may want to visit while at Cherry Point.
For more information on alcohol prevention, recreational activities, and available support resources, contact Brent Baker, the Alcohol Abuse Prevention Specialist, at (252) 466-8413.