An Online Guide to Mental & Behavioral Health

Resources for College Students

Alcohol Poisoning : A Medical Emergency

Alcohol poisoning, like other drug overdoses, can occur after the ingestion of a large amount of any alcoholic beverage (this includes beer, wine, and distilled spirits). But inexperienced drinkers, or those more sensitive to alcohol, may become acutely intoxicated and suffer serious consequences after drinking smaller amounts. Because of differences in body chemistry, women can overdose after drinking lesser amounts than men.

Here's what happens. Alcohol (a depressant drug), once ingested, works to slow down some of the body's functions. This includes heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. When the vital centers have been depressed enough by alcohol, unconsciousness occurs. Further, the amount of alcohol that it takes to produce unconsciousness is dangerously close to the fatal dose. People who survive alcohol poisoning sometimes suffer irreversible brain damage.

Many students are surprised to learn that death can occur from acute intoxication. Most think the worst that can happen is that they will pass out or have a hangover the next day.

Binge drinking (drinking five or more drinks in a row on a single occasion) is a common phenomenon on college campuses. As a result, you may come into contact with a person who is experiencing a life-threatening acute alcohol intoxication episode. Knowing the signs and symptoms of acute alcohol intoxication and taking appropriate action can help you avoid a tragedy.

Signs and Symptoms:

  • Unconsciousness or semi-consciousness
  • Slow respiration (eight or less breaths per minute)
  • Cold, clammy, pale, or bluish skin
  • Strong odor of alcohol

Appropriate Action

If you encounter someone with one or more of the above symptoms, call 911 immediately.>

While waiting for the emergency transport, gently turn the intoxicated person on his or her side and maintain that position by placing a pillow in the small of the person's back. This is important to prevent aspiration (choking) should the person vomit. Stay with the person until medical help arrives.

Sleeping it Off?

A more difficult situation occurs when the person appears to be "sleeping it off." It is important to understand that even though a person may be semi-conscious, alcohol already in the stomach may continue to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body. The person's life may still be in danger.

If you should encounter such a situation, place the person on his or her side, help them maintain that position, and watch them closely for signs of alcohol poisoning. If any signs appear, call 911.

If you are having difficulty determining whether an individual is acutely intoxicated, contact a health professional immediately. You cannot afford to guess.

From Health & Counseling Services, California Polytechnic University. Full Article.


It’s not always easy to see when your drinking has crossed the line from moderate or social use to problem drinking. But if you consume alcohol to cope with difficulties or to avoid feeling bad, you’re in potentially dangerous territory. Alcoholism and alcohol abuse can sneak up on you, so it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and take steps to cut back if you recognize them. Understanding the problem is the first step to overcoming it.

Understanding Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse

Alcoholism and alcohol abuse are due to many interconnected factors, including genetics, how you were raised, your social environment, and your emotional health. Some racial groups, such as American Indians and Native Alaskans, are more at risk than others of developing alcohol addiction. People who have a family history of alcoholism or who associate closely with heavy drinkers are more likely to develop drinking problems. Finally, those who suffer from a mental health problem such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder are also particularly at risk, because alcohol may be used to self-medicate.

Since drinking is so common in many cultures and the effects vary widely from person to person, it’s not always easy to figure out where the line is between social drinking and problem drinking. The bottom line is how alcohol affects you. If your drinking is causing problems in your life, you have a drinking problem.

Do You Have a Drinking Problem?

You may have a drinking problem if you...

  • Feel guilty or ashamed about your drinking.
  • Lie to others or hide your drinking habits.
  • Have friends or family members who are worried about your drinking.
  • Need to drink in order to relax or feel better.
  • "Black out" or forget what you did while you were drinking.
  • Regularly drink more than you intended to.

If you find yourself rationalizing your drinking habits, lying about them, or refusing to discuss the subject, take a moment to consider why you’re so defensive. If you have a drinking problem, you may deny it by:

  • Drastically underestimating how much you drink
  • Downplaying the negative consequences of your drinking
  • Complaining that family and friends are exaggerating the problem
  • Blaming your drinking or drinking-related problems on others

Getting Help

If you’re ready to admit you have a drinking problem, you’ve already taken the first step. It takes tremendous strength and courage to face alcohol abuse and alcoholism head on. Reaching out for support is the second step. Whether you choose to go to rehab, rely on self-help programs, get therapy, or take a self-directed treatment approach, support is essential.

Recovering from alcohol addiction is much easier when you have people you can lean on for encouragement, comfort, and guidance.

Getting sober is only the beginning. In order to stay alcohol-free for the long term, you’ll also have to face the underlying problems that led to your alcoholism or alcohol abuse in the first place.

Those problems could be depression, an inability to manage stress, an unresolved trauma from your childhood, or any number of mental health issues. Such problems may become more prominent when you’re no longer using alcohol to cover them up. But you will be in a healthier position to finally address them and seek the help you need.

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Alcohol Abuse Resources

  • Alcoholics anonymous: (925)829-0666
    • Screening Test : Addictions and Recovery offers 2 short self-tests for problem drinking, the CAGE and AUDIT tests.
    • National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) : One of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), NIAAA supports and conducts research on the impact of alcohol use on human health and well-being. It is the largest funder of alcohol research in the world and offers a large range of resources and information for free.
    • Rethinking Drinking: Interactive website with tools to help you check your drinking pattern, identify signs and symptoms of a problem, and get tools to cut back. (National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism).
    • Alcohol Abuse: How to Recognize Problem Drinking : The American Academy of Family Physicians provides a list of questions that can help you identify the signs and symptoms of problem drinking, alcohol abuse, or alcoholism.
    • Al-ANON and ALATEEN : Support group offering information and resources for friends and families of problem drinkers.

    General Mental Health Resources

    The menu on the right will link you to information on specific mental health topics. -->
    Below are additional links to excellent websites for mental health information:

    • Go Ask Alice: Website operated by Columbia University to answer the questions of college students on issues related to physical health, mental health, and sexuality.
    • Half Of Us: This engaging youth-oriented site uses video stories of students and high-profile artists to increase awareness about mental health issues and the importance of getting help.
    • This website of the American Psychiatric Association offers a broad array of information on topics related to mental health.
    • Helpguide: Website operated by a non-profit organization offers information and resources on a broad range of mental health topics.
    • National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI): An advocacy group for people living with mental illness and their loved ones. Good source of information and resources on mental health topics.
    • An information and support service using evidence based principles and technology to help teens and young adults facing tough times and struggling with mental health issues.
    • An online resource for college students with information about protecting your emotional health and what to do if you or friends are struggling with mental health issues.
    • Student Health 101