Teenage Alcohol Poisoning: 6 Symptoms that Require Help

Glass of alcohol with skull and crossbones.
Glass of alcohol with skull and crossbones.

It’s a friend’s or parent’s nightmare. What started as a fun event took a bad turn when alcohol became involved. In a scenario far too common with underage drinking, someone may have developed alcohol poisoning. Is it time to call a hospital? Notify their parents?

Alcohol poisoning is a serious issue that impacts more people than you may realize. It’s more than someone getting sick at a party; it can be a matter of life or death. According to the CDC, every day, six people die as a result of alcohol poisoning.

Here are symptoms of teenage alcohol poisoning you need to recognize. By recognizing these symptoms, you can take the right steps to protect your friend or child — and potentially save their life.

1. Behaving Confused or Uncoordinated

One of the first signs of teenage alcohol poisoning is that the person may appear confused or uncoordinated. The effects of alcohol on the teenage brain are far-reaching, impacting judgment, impulse control, memory, coordination, consciousness, and even breathing.

If someone is showing signs of extreme confusion, such as not knowing where they are or who the people around them are, they may be suffering from alcohol poisoning.

2. Vomiting

It might be gross, but it’s important to recognize vomiting as a key indicator of alcohol poisoning. Throwing up is one of the first signs that someone has alcohol poisoning. If a friend is throwing up because of underage drinking, that’s the body’s way of telling them that something is wrong, and it’s trying to expel the toxins in their body.

When you see a person throwing up as a result of underage drinking, it doesn’t mean that they are a “lightweight” or “can’t hold alcohol.” It may be a sign of something dangerous that needs to be taken seriously.

3. Seizures

Another sign of teenage alcohol poisoning is seizures. Seizures as a result of alcohol poisoning are often caused by an irregularity in the metabolism, such as low blood sugar. Someone having a seizure as a result of alcohol poisoning should receive medical attention immediately.

4. Someone Passes Out and Cannot Be Awakened

When you see someone pass out or lose consciousness as a result of underage drinking, it’s a sure sign that they may be experiencing alcohol poisoning. If a friend loses consciousness and won’t wake up when you try to shake or jostle them, it’s time to call 911.

5. Skin Appears Pale, Blue, or Blotchy

Another potential sign of alcohol poisoning is hypothermia. Contrary to popular belief, alcohol does not keep people warm. In fact, the opposite is true. Alcohol actually lowers a person’s body temperature.

In the event of alcohol poisoning, the body temperature can become so low that it can result in hypothermia. This may also result in a blue color on the skin or lips and skin that feels cold or clammy. If you notice these signs, you should cover the person with a blanket to raise their body temperature and call 911.

6. Slow or Irregular Breathing

We mentioned earlier about how the brain controls breathing. Because of the way alcohol can impact the brain, a person’s breathing may become irregular, slow down, or even stop entirely.

Irregular breathing is generally defined as when more than 10 seconds elapse between breaths. Slowed breathing is when someone takes less than eight breaths in a minute. Call 911 immediately if you recognize either of these signs of alcohol poisoning.

Remember That You “MUST HELP”

One way to remember the signs of teenage alcohol poisoning is that you “MUST HELP.” It’s a mnemonic that breaks down the symptoms of alcohol poisoning so you can take the right action. If a friend or loved one is experiencing these symptoms, remember that you “must help” them by contacting 911 or a poison control center as soon as possible.

  • M – Mental Confusion
  • U – Unresponsive
  • S – Snoring or Difficulty Breathing
  • T – Throwing Up
  • H – Hypothermia
  • E – Erratic Breathing
  • L – Loss of Consciousness
  • P – Pale or Blue Skin

Remember that just because someone may have stopped drinking, their blood alcohol level can still rise. If you suspect that someone may have alcohol poisoning, it’s always best to call 911 rather than assuming they can sleep it off.

The Good Samaritan Law Protects You While You Protect Your Friends

It’s not uncommon for teenagers to want to help but be afraid to ask for it. This is because teens may be concerned with legal repercussions if they were also drinking underage. Everyone should know that they are protected from prosecution if they call 911 to save someone’s life.

It’s part of North Carolina’s Good Samaritan Law. No one should ever feel uncomfortable calling 911 for fear of getting in trouble. That’s exactly what the Good Samaritan Law protects against.

If you call 911 for help during a drug or alcohol overdose, both the victim and caller are protected against prosecution for underage possession and consumption of alcohol, possession of a small amount of most drugs, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Worries about an underage drinking ticket should never cost someone their life. Thanks to the Good Samaritan Law, teens can confidently call 911 if they or someone they know is experiencing alcohol poisoning. There’s no need to worry about being punished for doing the right thing.

Take the Pledge and Prevent Teenage Alcohol Poisoning

Teenage alcohol poisoning is a serious issue with grave consequences for those who don’t recognize it and take action. Underage drinking is never a good idea, and alcohol poisoning is an all-too-common side effect. Don’t let teenage alcohol poisoning harm the people you love. Take the Pledge to stop underage drinking today!