- Passed out and unable to be woken up
- While passed out
- Cold clammy skin, pale and bluish
- Slow, irregular, labored breathing
What to do
- Call 911
- Stay with the person and continue to monitor them
- Place the person on their side, if they vomit make sure their airway is clear
- Keep them warm
- Do not give them food or water
- Most importantly do not leave the person alone!
High risk times for alcohol poisoning
- Birthdays (21st)
- Beginning of school year (particularly for freshman)
- Spring break
- After finals
Recognizing a Problem
Substance abuse problems come on many levels, from a single evening of bingeing, to frequent problematic behavior. When a person's substance use gets in the way of those things that should be more important, then there is cause for concern. Any of the items listed below represents unhealthy and perhaps dangerous behavior; a number of them together could be a sign that your friend has lost control of his or her drug or alcohol use:
- drinking to get drunk, or until passing out or blacking out
- using at inappropriate times: before class, before driving
- becoming violent, yelling, fighting
- not doing well in school (missing class, not studying) because of using
- switching peer groups and finding other heavy users as friends
- having a family history of chemical dependency
- experiencing changes in personality, a "Jekyl and Hyde" effect
- increasing frequency of blackouts
- change in priorities, neglecting responsibilities
- health problems or changes (i.e. weight changes, frequent illness, chronic stomach problems)
- change in behaviors (i.e. lying, stealing, selling personal belongings)
People can move back and forth on the continuum from social to problem use. Example: a freshman, first time away from home, going overboard with substance abuse, recognizes the consequences and makes changes to move back towards social use. However, once someone crosses the line into addiction, there is no going back to social using, the only option is to abstain.
How to Help a Friend
- Decide to do something: Decrease your worry and concern by reading this list and deciding to take the initiative to help your friend.
- Don’t keep it a secret: You need to talk to someone about it, maybe someone who also knows your friend. You may find out that you are not the only one who thinks your friend has a problem. The substance abuse program at Wardenburg is a good place to start. The people who work there understand what you are going through, and can help you make a plan.
- Ask: It is normal for a friend to be interested in what is happening in their friends’ lives. Friends don’t like to see their friends in pain. Ask your friend in a non-threatening, non-judgmental way such as “How are you?” or “are you concerned about yourself?” If you get angry and say something like “You’re an alcoholic/drug addict, you’re acting like a loser and you are going to ruin your life,” your friend is just going to get angry and defensive and probably continue to drink/use.
- Be specific about your concerns: When you talk to your friend, make sure they understand what you have seen and how it affects you. Make a list of concerning behaviors that you have witnessed your friend doing. It is possible that your friend wasn’t aware, or has been denying the effects that drinking has caused.
- Be prepared for any number of responses: Your friend may react in a number of ways, ranging from no reaction to anger, denial, or even agreement. Don’t take their reaction personally.
- Offer to be a “sober buddy” for your friend: Many people with substance abuse problems fear that if they stop they will give up their social lives. Make alternative plans with your friend and help them see what else they can do other than partying.
- Be prepared with resources and referrals: If your friend wants your help, make a commitment to help. Give them phone numbers and places where they can get help, and offer to go with them. If they don’t want your help, commit to trying to reach them by trying again another time.
- Don’t make excuses for your friend: Don’t do homework or write papers for your friend. Don’t lie for your friend if they are in trouble, or lend them money to go out. If you shield your friend from the consequences of drinking or using, then you are enabling them to continue their behavior, and giving them the message that what they are doing is okay.
- Don’t try to talk about “change” when your friend is drunk or high: Wait until your friend is sober. Pick a time and place where your friend will feel safe talking about this.
- Don’t get in a car with your friend if they have been drinking.
- Don’t spend time with your friend when they’re drunk: If you are with your friend and they get drunk, go home, or go out with other friends.
- Know when to quit: As harsh as it sounds, your relationship with your friend might reach a point where you stop trying. If you have tried everything, and your friend continues to drink in a destructive fashion, then you may need to remove yourself from the situation for your own health and well-being. You must take care of yourself first.
- Don’t let their situation affect your well-being: Dealing with a person with a substance abuse problem can be a very stressful experience. Don’t let taking care of your friend get in the way of your schoolwork, health, and emotional well-being.
- Don’t try to get through it alone: Use and expand the support system you have. Talk with a counselor on campus, friend, or someone you trust.
- Set limits that you will stick to: If you get no positive response from your friend, make sure that you have a plan to separate yourself from some of the pain you are feeling. Remind your friend that you care about them, but dislike the way they behave when they are drinking.
Some examples of limits you may need to set
- Not hanging out with them when they are using
- Not giving them notes for classes they miss because of a hangover or partying too late the night before
- Not bailing them out of bad situations they’ve gotten into because of their use
- Not loaning them money
Women/Men and Alcohol
Women and Alcohol
Men and women do not respond to alcohol in the same way. Current research indicates that women's bodies are less efficient at mitigating alcohol's effects. There are many factors that influence this difference.
- Body size: Women are, on the average, built smaller than men. Therefore, equal amounts of alcohol cause a higher blood alcohol concentration in women due to the smaller blood volume.
- Body composition: The average female carries more body fat than a male. Body fat contains little water. When consumed, alcohol dilutes in water. Therefore, a female has less body water to dilute alcohol in, causing a higher blood alcohol concentration, even if an equally sized man and woman drink the same amount of alcohol.
- Alcohol dehydrogenase: Women have 30% less of this metabolizing enzyme that helps rid the body of alcohol in their stomach than men do. Therefore, more of the alcohol that women drink enters the blood stream and stays there. The amount of this enzyme also continues to drop as women age.
- Response to alcohol: A woman’s response to alcohol is increased due to hormonal changes when a woman is about to have her period, or is taking the birth control pill.
For these reasons, women can expect more impairment from alcohol than men consuming an equal dose of alcohol. Preliminary research suggests that women develop problems with alcohol more quickly and severely than men do.
- Faster progression to liver and pancreas damage.
- Faster progression to alcoholism.
- Anemia, malnutrition, stomach irritation and low resistance to disease
- Inability to use vitamins and calcium leading to increased risk of osteoporosis, dull skin and hair, and aggravated acne
- Women who drink 2 or more drinks daily significantly increase the risk of developing breast cancer.
- Heavy drinking during pregnancy has been linked to miscarriage, still birth, birth defects, behavioral problems and the development of fetal alcohol syndrome, a form of mental retardation.
Men and Alcohol
- Alcohol increases estrogen levels in men
- Chronic alcoholism has been associated with loss of body hair and muscle mass, increase of fatty tissue, feminization of the body, development of swollen breasts and shrunken testicles
- Shakespeare said, "The drink provoketh the desire but taketh away the performance." (i.e. can cause sexual dysfunction and impotence)