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What an evening! Your friend's been drinking vodka and cranberry juice for three hours. She passed out a while ago, and now you can't wake her up. She feels clammy, her breathing is ragged and labored. You think maybe you should take her to a hospital, but you don't want to get in trouble for underage drinking. Besides, you can't actually overdose on alcohol. Can you?

Binge drinking may result in an overdose of alcohol, or alcohol poisoning - a medical emergency that requires immediate attention. It's sometimes hard to tell if someone has only "passed out" or is in serious medical danger. Here are some symptoms of alcohol poisoning:

  • Does not respond to being talked to or shouted at
  • Does not respond to being pinched, prodded or poked
  • Cannot stand up
  • Will not wake up
  • Slow, labored or abnormal breathing
  • Skin has a purplish color
  • Skin feels clammy
  • Rapid pulse rate
  • Irregular heart rhythm
  • Lowered blood pressure
Choking to death on one's vomit after an alcohol overdose is more common than you might think. Death by asphyxiation occurs when alcohol depresses the body's reflexes to the point that the person can't vomit properly.

People who have overdosed on alcohol are unable to help themselves, so it's up to you to get assistance. A friend's life may depend on it.

  • Call for medical attention immediately and stay with the person until help arrives.
  • Turn the person on one side so that if vomiting occurs, the discharge won't be caught in the windpipe.
Unfortunately, there are no hard rules on how many drinks will result in alcohol poisoning. This will vary from person to person and from situation to situation. When making choices about drinking for yourself, consider your own safe limit.