It’s Called Alcohol POISONING for a Reason

Carson Starkey always believed the world was full of unlimited possibilities. And throughout his life, he proved it.

He played on his high school’s tennis, cross-country, and lacrosse teams and competed in cycling tournaments up to the international level, all while graduating in the top ten percent of his class at Stephen F. Austin High School. Carson loved the outdoors and frequently volunteered his time to projects such as building hiking and biking trails. He could get along with people of all ages and held tight relationships with both friends and family.

A passion for architecture led Carson from Austin, sigma alphaTexas all the way to Cal Poly State University in San Luis Obispo, California, where he majored in architectural engineering. During his first quarter he pledged to Sigma Alpha Epsilon, a move that surprised his family, who did not think he would join Greek life.

On December 1, 2008, the fraternity held its traditional “Brown Bag Night,” where Carson and the other pledges were each given a bag full of a variety of alcohol and told to finish it all before midnight. In just twenty minutes, Carson emptied his bag of two 24 ounce Steel Reserve beers, a 16 ounce Sparks alcoholic energy drink, and a fifth of rum split between him and another person. Pledges additionally passed around a bottle of Everclear.

People noticed Carson drooling, his eyes gaining a glazed look, and his body going limp, before he passed out entirely. It was later discovered that his blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was 0.4.

Some of the fraternity members brought Carson to a car to take him to a hospital but ultimately changed their minds out of fear of placing themselves and their chapter in trouble. Instead, they moved Carson back inside the house and onto a dirty mattress with a trash can nearby, leaving him alone and unmonitored the rest of the night.

Carson never woke up.

The next day, Carson’s mother Julia dialed back a missed call from earlier that morning. The San Luis Obispo County Coroner’s Office answered.

That was how the Starkey’s learned of their son’s death via alcohol poisoning.

What is Alcohol Poisoning

Despite its availability and popularity, alcohol is a known toxin. The human body can only process alcohol so fast—approximately one drink per hour. Any more, and the alcohol will enter the bloodstream quicker than the body can metabolize it, which leads to a person being intoxicated (see toxic is even right there in one of the most common synonyms for drunk!).

When a person drinks far more than his or her body’s threshold, such as when binge drinking, he or she risks alcohol slowing down vital bodily functions such as heart rate, breathing, and gag reflex. The loss or impairment of these functions can lead to choking, hypothermia, heart irregularity, organ failure, and more, all of which—as in the terrifyingly sad case of Carson Starkey—can lead to death. Survivors may suffer from irreversible brain damage.

Every year approximately 4,300 teens and young adults die from alcohol poisoning. Six people (of all ages) are killed by it every day in the United States alone.

amy winehouseSix people. Every day.

In 2011, Grammy award-winning singer Amy Winehouse died from alcohol poisoning after a session of binge drinking depressed her respiratory system. Country musician Keith Whitley was similarly found dead with a BAC of 0.47. Bon Scott, the original vocalist of the rock band AC/DC, choked to death on his own vomit because booze had shut down his gag reflex. His friend had left him in his car that night to “sleep it off.”

Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning

If you ever drink or plan to be in a situation around drinkers, it’s crucial you know the signs of alcohol poisoning and what to do. Some basic indicators of alcohol poisoning include:

  • Slow, shallow, or otherwise irregular breathingpassed out girls
  • Vomiting
  • Confusion or if the person seems to be in a semi-conscious stupor
  • Skin that feels cold or clammy or has turned pale or bluish
  • Eyes that have dark circles underneath or appear sunken
  • Unconsciousness

Any of these symptoms could be a sign of a fatal dose of alcohol, and immediate action must be taken.

What To Do

Don’t ignore the problem or think the person simply needs to sleep it off. In fact, his condition will grow worse even as he sleeps, because the alcohol will continue to be absorbed into the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. As the friends of Carson Starkey, Bon Scott, and countless other victims have learned, leaving a person to sleep it off could mean he’ll never wake up.

call for helpRather, as soon as you observe any of the symptoms of alcohol poisoning call 911. Don’t wait just a little bit longer to see if the person’s state will improve; his condition is more likely to worsen over time, not get better.

While you wait for help, stay with the person and do your best to keep them calm, still, and comfortable. Monitor his breathing and heartbeat.

Now is not the time for you or anyone else to lecture “I told you you shouldn’t have drank so much,” or make jokes about him “being a lightweight.” If he is even able to comprehend what you are saying, it may very well make him angry and attempt to run away, drink more, fight somebody, or do something else equally stupid and dangerous.

If the intoxicated person lies down you absolutely must ensure he is not on his back or stomach. These positions make it very easy for someone to choke and asphyxiate on his own vomit.

Instead, lay him down on his side. If you need to roll him over to this position, use the Bacchus Maneuver (as demonstrated in this video):

But What If I Get in Trouble?

If the fraternity brothers of Sigma Alpha Epsilon hadn’t stopped to think about this question, Carson Starkey might still be alive.

Police_LineShould someone display signs of alcohol poisoning, you have both a moral and legal responsibility to get her immediate medical attention. Even if you are unsure of her condition, call 911 right away. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when a person’s life is on the line.

Still, countless cases of alcohol-related emergencies (including but not limited to alcohol poisoning) go unreported every year because people, particularly minors, are afraid of getting in trouble for drinking. For example, in a Cornell University study 19% of college students reported being in an alcohol-related situation where they should have called for help, but only 4% did.

First of all, the consequences for possessing or consuming alcohol as a minor or furnishing alcohol to a minor are nothing compared to the criminal negligence, manslaughter, and/or other severe charges a person may face if somebody dies from alcohol poisoning, and she did nothing to prevent it.

Second, in order to encourage underage drinkers to call for help when it is needed, many states, including California, have enacted Medical Amnesty laws. Under this legislation, if an intoxicated minor calls 911 for herself or another person—and stays with the person in the case of the latter—she is guaranteed protection from criminal prosecution.

Worried about how your friend will react to you calling 911 on her behalf? Don’t be.

If any sane, logical person wakes up in a hospital bed and hospital bedlearns she was treated for a potentially life-threatening condition, the last thing she’ll do is bust your chops for ruining her night at a party. Reaching out for help is not snitching or being a tattle tale—it’s looking out for other people. It shows you have their back and care more about them than about keeping the party going or getting judged for “worrying too much.” It’s that very worry that may save your friend’s life.

Alcohol poisoning is a serious and rampant issue. Knowing the signs and being brave enough to take action can mean the difference between life and death.

body bag

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By Tyler Wroblewski

For more on Carson’s story please visit awareawakealive.org

Before your child goes to a party, make sure to have a serious conversation about alcohol and other drugs. Ask what your teen would do if he found himself in this situation and inform him of the risks and signs of alcohol poisoning and what to do. 

Pictures From

Sigma Alpha Epislon House: Original photo by Kane5187 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons. Cropped by author.

Amy Winehouse: By Rama (cropped version from) [CeCILL (http://www.cecill.info/licences/Licence_CeCILL_V2-en.html) or CC BY-SA 2.0 fr (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/fr/deed.en)], via Wikimedia Commons

Passed Out Wine Girls: By danielle_blue at https://www.flickr.com/photos/danielleblue/1453928309

Talking on the Phone: By Marjan Lazarevski at https://www.flickr.com/photos/mlazarevski/9645066390

Police Line: By Tony Webster (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Hospital Bed: Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

Paramedics: By Chris Wagner at en.wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

10 Best Tips If You Don’t Want to Drink (Pt.1)

As a teen, there’s a decent chance you will be offered alcohol or other drugs at some point. Maybe by a stranger at a party, an acquaintance, even a friend. And for a multitude of reasons I won’t get into right now (teen drinkers are more likely than their non-drinking peers to become alcoholics—sorry, just had to slip one in there!), we at Omni Youth Programs encourage you to turn down their offer.

Easier said than done, right?

Like, how exactly do you say no? Or how should you respond when people ask why? What if you decide to be sober but still want to hang out with friends who drink or go to a party where alcohol may be present?

Of course, Omni Youth Programs advises teens to avoid situations that involve underage drinking completely. The best way to turn down a drink is to not be in a scenario where someone would offer you one. Furthermore, even if you are staying sober, an alcohol-infused environment could still prove dangerous. Intoxicated people are more prone to bad decisions, crazy antics, and violence, all of which could put you in danger—not to mention the trouble you could get into with the law, even if you did not personally consume any alcohol.

That said, we also recognize that avoiding alcohol entirely is not always possible when leading a typical teenage life. You might show up to a pool party, not realizing there would be booze present, or go to a concert with a drunken crowd. Maybe you don’t have a safe way to leave the situation or perhaps you simply don’t want to miss out on an otherwise fun time because of the poor choices of others.

These top ten tips can apply to everyone, whether you never drink, just aren’t drinking for the night, or simply want to drink in moderation when everyone else is getting hammered. Furthermore, while I will mostly be addressing teens, these tips can be just as helpful for non-drinking adults at the bar.

#1 Trust Your Friends

As I’ve explained before, telling my friends I didn’t want to drink was one of the most nerve-racking moments in my life. I was scared my decision would weaken our friendships, and we’d drift apart. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

hiking picture editWhile it’s possible your friends may be initially disappointed, they’ll quickly adjust. Friends don’t need to like all the same things
or have the exact same opinions on everything to be able to appreciate one another. Your real friends will accept you for who you are.

Also, once you tell your pals the first time, it’s either not a problem anymore or it gets infinitely easier to deal with. My buddies came to accept that I was a non-drinker, and if they or anyone else asked me to drink it was increasingly easy to say no. Furthermore, whenever we were at a situation with a lot of new people, I felt like they always had my back about my choices and would support me in the face of anyone who gave me trouble.

#2 Go Where You’re Comfortable

As I tagged along with my friends to various events where alcohol was present, I gradually discovered what types of gatherings I could have fun at and those that I knew I wouldn’t enjoy. A significant part of that was the “level” of alcohol or how much the event centered on drinking.

Some non-drinkers are comfortable with even the wildest of frat parties, some only enjoy low-key BBQs with a few beers present, while others don’t like being around booze at all. For me, I was cool with kickbacks and small-sized parties, but anything much crazier than that and I’d decline the invite.dancing legs

Figure out where you are comfortable. If you’re feeling weird, don’t feel awkward about leaving the situation. Always know that your decision not to drink does not define you. Don’t think it dictates who you can or can’t be friends with or where you can or can’t go to have fun. That’s up to you.

#3 You Aren’t Alone

Sometimes it can feel like you’re the only one in the world not drinking, and pop culture often portrays being drunk as a requirement for a good time. But did you know roughly 70% of teens don’t drink?

Lots of people choose not to drink or do so only in moderation. When you are at a party or other social situation with alcohol, it’s likely there will be other people not drinking. Whether they’re the designated driver, totally abstain from alcohol, or need to get up early, you can usually find others who are sober.

friends hands edited

Also, countless entertaining activities don’t involve alcohol, everything from playing sports to hiking to shopping at the mall and more. Sure, a lot of my buddies like to drink, but that’s far from the only time we get together. Your friends will also be into doing other fun things. Capitalize on those opportunities.

#4 It’s All in How You Say It

The number one part of telling people you don’t want to drink is in the way you say it. No matter the exact words you use to say no or explain your reasoning, you need to be confident but polite. Go ahead and repeat that to yourself.

Confident but polite.

Confident: If you sound wishy-washy people might think you don’t really believe you don’t want to drink and just need a little convincing. Be assured in your decision and show it. I was at a kickback with a lot of people I didn’t know once, and it took at least three times as long for everyone to finally understand I wasn’t a drinker, all because I was too meek in my initial response.

Polite: On the flip side, you shouldn’t sound so over-confident as to be arrogant or aggressive. Doing so may seem like you are attacking everyone else. Make sure to thank them for offering—sometimes people ask you to be a good host—but then politely decline.

#5 Short but Sweet

Simplicity is your friend.

It is the greatest tool in your belt, the strongest weapon in your arsenal. When it comes to turning down a drink, simplicity is often the best tactic.

“Hey, do you want a shot?”

“Nah, man, I’m good.”

Boom. Drop the mic.

 Mic

Sometimes, less is more. You don’t need to go into long-winded explanations as to why you aren’t going to shotgun that beer if no one asks. Save yourself the time and effort and keep things short and simple. “No thanks,” “that’s alright, I’m fine,” and the like are all perfectly great responses that tend to garner equally great results. You didn’t make a big deal out of turning down a drink, so why should anyone else?

And if the first “I’m good” isn’t enough, you can always use the Broken Record Technique (aka the B.R.T.). Someone asks you again and again and again to drink? Just repeat the same short phrase again and again and again. They’ll take the hint.

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By Tyler Wroblewski

Click here for the remaining five awesome tips for non-drinkers!


Pictures From

Beer: From Len Rizzi (photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Group Picture & Picture of Hands: From the author.

Dancing: From www.audio-luci-store.it at www.flickr.com/photos/audiolucistore

Microphone: From Robert Bejil at www.flickr.com/photos/robnas/