Saturday, September 11, 2010

Alcohol: Pleasure or Poison?

Plastic or glass? Today's challenge was to make a photo of a bottle or grouping of bottles.

Drinking alcohol can do a lot of different things to our bodies. It can help us "loosen up" in social situations, can be enjoyed with a meal or quench our thirst on a hot day. People react differently to alcohol depending on their size, age, gender and experience with drinking. It is important however, to know the signs of alcohol poisoning.

Alcohol poisoning is a very serious and dangerous condition, in which alcohol depresses (as it is a depressant), the central nervous system and depresses involuntary actions – such as breathing and the gag reflex. There are varying degrees of alcohol poisoning. Vomiting can be considered a sign of mild alcohol poisoning. Alcohol is an irritant to the stomach, which is why bodies reject it if too much has been ingested. More critical signs of alcohol poisoning are mental confusion, stupor, and the inability to be roused, which are all things that can lead up to an eventual coma. Other signs are seizures, slow breathing and irregular breathing (which is considered fewer than 8 breaths per minute, and 10 seconds or more between breaths respectively), and hypothermia with blue-tinged or pale skin. 

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that things will get better before they get worse. Even if the person has stopped drinking and/or is passed out, alcohol continues to be released into the bloodstream after their last drink. If someone has alcohol poisoning, the best thing to do for them is to get medical attention as soon as possible. When a friend is vomiting, and cannot wake up, their life is in danger. It is important that you role them onto their side and assure that their airway is clear, and they have ample ability to clear their system of vomit.

Here are some steps if you encounter someone who is passed out and could be suffering from acute alcohol poisoning:

1. Try to wake the person

Can the person be woken up? Do they respond to their name being called? Pinch their skin – they should have a reaction. Alcohol is a depressant and it will numb the nerves, by pinching you can roughly gauge how far along in the “overdose” process they are. If they do not respond, they may need medical attention.

2. Turn the person on their side – do not leave them alone.

Turning them on their side ensures that if they vomit, their airway will not be blocked and they will not choke. Stay with them – only leave them if you have to get someone to help you. 

3. Check skin colour and temperature.

Is enough blood getting to the skin? A clear sign that you need to get help if the skin is pale or bluish in colour, or the skin is cold and clammy. These signs indicate that the person is not getting sufficient oxygen and they need immediate medical attention.

4. Check their breathing

Irregular breathing, with a few breaths and then nothing for awhile, is a sign that medical attention is necessary. If the person’s breathing is too slow or shallow – less than 8 breaths a minute, or more than 10 seconds between breaths – this is another sign that they need help. These are just some of the potential signs of acute alcohol poisoning. A person may have one or all of these signs. Use your instincts when assessing a situation. If you cannot wake the person up at all, it is a serious situation. If you are at all concerned, don’t hesitate to get help.


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