Prevent Alcohol Poisoning Deaths

About a half-dozen young people die every year in the U.S. of alcohol poisoning, according to the federal government’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 1 These tragic deaths are completely preventable.

Following the alcohol poisoning death of Samantha Spady, her parents established the SAM Spady Foundation to educate people to the dangers of high risk drinking and the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning. SAM (Student Alcohol Management) is distributing informational wallet cards that alert people never to leave an intoxicated person alone. In addition, people should call 911 if a person ever has any of these symptoms:

  • is unconscious or semiconscious
  • is breathing fewer than ten tomes per minute or is breathing irregularly
  • is cold, clammy, pale or has bluish skin
  • cannot be awakened by pinching, prodding or shouting, or
  • is vomiting without waking up.

Any intoxication always carries a degree of risk. People who choose to drink should always do so in moderation. The following tips are helpful in drinking sensibly:

  • Don't be fooled. The contents of the typical bottle or can of beer, glass of wine, or liquor drink (mixed drink or straight liquor) each contains virtually identical amounts of pure alcohol. When it comes to alcohol, a drink is a drink is a drink and they are all the same to a breathalyzer.
  • Know your limit. If you are not sure, experiment at home with your spouse or some other responsible individual. Explain what you are attempting to learn. Most people find that they can consume one drink per hour without any ill effects.
  • Eat food while you drink. Food, especially high protein food such as meat, cheese and peanuts, will help slow the absorption of alcohol into your body. Sip your drink. If you gulp a drink, you lose the pleasure of savoring its flavors and aromas.
  • Don't participate in "chugging" contests or other drinking games.
  • Accept a drink only when you really want one. If someone tries to force a drink on you, ask for a non-alcohol beverage instead. If that doesn't work, "lose" your drink by setting it down somewhere and leaving it.
  • Skip a drink now and then. Having a non-alcoholic drink between alcoholic ones will help keep your blood alcohol content level down, as does spacing out your alcoholic drinks A good general guideline for most people is to limit consumption of alcohol beverages to one drink (beer, wine or spirits) per hour.

    Standard Drinks and Alcohol Equivalence

    Learn what they are and why they'’re very important.

  • Keep active; don't just sit around and drink. If you stay active you tend to drink less and to be more aware of any effects alcohol may be having on you.
  • Beware of unfamiliar drinks. Some drinks, such as zombies and other fruit drinks, can be deceiving because the alcohol content is not detectable. Therefore, it is difficult to space them properly.
  • Use alcohol carefully in connection with pharmaceuticals. Ask your physician or pharmacist about any precautions or prohibitions and follow any advice received.
  • Remember that a woman, even of the same height and weight as a man, will be much more effected by the same amount of alcohol.

If you’re serving as host, always be responsible:

  • Create a setting conducive to easy, comfortable socializing: soft, gentle music; low levels of noise; comfortable seating. This encourages conversation and social interaction rather than heavy drinking.
  • Serve food before beginning to serve drinks. This de-emphasizes the importance of alcohol and also sends the message that intoxication is not desirable.
  • Have a responsible person serve as bartender. If you plan to ask a friend or relative to act as bartender, make sure that person is not a drink pusher who encourages excessive consumption.
  • Don't have an "open bar." A responsible person should supervise consumption to ensure that no one drinks too much. You have both a moral and a legal responsibility to make sure that none of your guests drink too much.
  • Pace the drinks. Serve drinks at regular reasonable intervals. A drink-an-hour schedule is a good guide.
  • Push snacks. Make sure that people are eating.
  • Be sure to offer a diversity of attractive non-alcoholic drinks. (For numerous non-alcohol drink recipes, visit Non-Alcoholic Drinks).
  • Respect anyone's choice not to drink. Remember that about one-third of American adults choose not to drink and that a guest's reason for not drinking is the business of the guest only, not of the host. Be careful not to put anyone on the defense for not drinking.
  • End your gathering properly. Decide when you want the party to end and stop serving drinks well before that time. Then begin serving coffee along with substantial snacks. This provides essential non-drinking time before your guests.

If our friends use poor judgment we need to step in to prevent them from drinking too much and harming themselves or others.


  • 1. Hall, R. While rare, underage deaths from alcohol poisoning point to concerns over binge drinking, Kalamazoo Gazette, April 18, 2005.

Filed Under: Health