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It’s no secret that college students party.

But even though partying is a fun way to let loose, there is a darker side to the fun. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 79,000 deaths each year stem from “excessive alcohol use.”

Although sometimes we can drink too much (and end up sleeping by a toilet), there is a difference between having too much to drink and suffering from alcohol poisoning.

According to CollegeDrinkingPrevention.gov, the signs of alcohol poisoning are:

  • Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or person cannot be roused.
  • Vomiting.
  • Seizures.
  • Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute).
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths).
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness.

Just because someone has fallen asleep after drinking, it does not mean they are OK. They could still vomit in their sleep or even choke. If someone is sick, do not leave this person alone. If you are too intoxicated to help this person on your own, seek the help of a RA or a friend who has not been drinking.

The line between drunk and alcohol poisoning can be a hard one to distinguish at times. There have been times where I’ve questioned whether or not I needed to take a friend to the hospital. The most important thing to do is for you to monitor them and check for the above symptoms. But I believe it is best to err on the side of caution. If it doesn’t seem normal, it probably isn’t. If you’re worried, you probably have a reason to feel that way. Go with your gut and do the right thing.

I know some of you will worry about if you will get into trouble because you’ve been drinking as well. I don’t care who you are or what you have to lose. If a friend is in trouble, you need to call for help. You do not want to be responsible for letting your friend die or sustain significant brain damage. If you’re scared about calling an ambulance or getting others involved, just think of this: Would you rather spend the rest of your life knowing you could have saved your friend’s life? Some schools have agreements with local hospitals that you won’t get in trouble with police (or the university) for underage drinking if you’re trying to get a friend some help.

If you find that this is a common occurrence for a friend, it’s time to step in. First try talking with them and see if you can find out why they are drinking so much to begin with. Are they stressed? Are they trying to fit in? Are they depressed? Once you can f figure that out, try to help them find solutions. Most universities offer some type of free counseling — try to see if your friend will go and make an appointment. If you try to reach out and he or she isn’t responsive, it might be time to involve an RA, parent or friend.

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