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Monday, January 19, 2015

Left to Die - Stories of Alcohol Poisoning & Drug Overdoses


Previously published either late 2009 or early 2010 on Associated Content/Yahoo Voices/ Yahoo Contributor Network

Alcohol Poisoning - Know the Signs and Symptoms

Alcohol Poisoning isn't always obvious - know the signs - the effects of alcohol poisoning can be deadly.

What follows are four different stories, all true, involving alcohol poisoning and/or drug overdoses. In addition to the stories, you will find resources for detecting alcohol poisoning and helpful advice and information about what to do when you suspect alcohol poisoning.



Alcohol Poisoning, Cold Weather, and Teenagers Who Cover For Their Friends
It was winter, snow covered the ground, and it was bitterly cold outside. As I came in from work an hour after my children had come home from school, my son and his friends, one of whom I'd never met, rushed past me to go outside.
Several minutes later, my daughter called me to the front door window. It appeared as if my son and a friend of his were holding up another friend, the one I'd never met. Marty was either acting goofy, or the cold was causing him to have difficulty walking.
I decided to wait until the boys returned home, but nearly half an hour passed and only two of them came back. "Where's Marty?" I asked.
"He went home." Uncomfortable, because I had seen the way he was walking, I pressed the issue and discovered that Marty had come over after school carrying "a fifth" that included a mixture of different types of alcohol that he had found in his parents' liquor cabinet. The three teenagers had shared the liquor, but the two boys in front of me appeared to be sober.
When I realized that Marty had probably consumed most of the bottle, I told them to bring him back to my house, because I didn't want him walking the two miles to his home. They hesitated but admitted that he might be a "little" drunk because earlier he had taken off all his clothes and had run naked through the snow.
When I asked them why they hadn't told me the truth, they said they were scared I would find out all of them had been drinking, and they didn't want to get in trouble. Since Marty was more obviously drunk than they were, they hid him in the shed hoping he would sober up. He hadn't walked home after all.
Demanding they bring him into my home, I noticed that Marty's clothes were wet, he was beyond shivering, and he was unresponsive. I told them to take him into the bathroom, take off his clothes, and put some of my son's clothes on him.
It hadn't occurred to me that, even if he was suffering from hypothermia, the combination of alcohol, his wet clothes, and the weather would make for a dangerous situation. Like so many people who think lightly of somebody passing out, I assumed Marty was just sleeping it off.
I threw his clothes into the dryer, brought out blankets and a hair drying to warm him up, and I massaged his feet and hands in an attempt to circulate his blood. I kept calling his name, and though he didn't respond, because he was breathing, I thought he was in no danger.
When, after a few minutes, he still didn't respond to my voice, I announced that I was going to call his parents and the paramedics. Upon hearing my threat, my son and his other friend became more determined to wake him up.

When Marty opened his eyes, everybody was relieved and the boys thought I would no longer report the incident. I did anyway. When paramedics are called in cases of alcohol poisoning, police come too. The presence of paramedics, police, and Marty's parents profoundly impacted the teenagers in my home.
Marty lived, his parents got him help, and my children (and I) learned a valuable lesson - if somebody appears to be unconscious, get help immediately.
Alcohol Poisoning and Friends Who Trust Friends With Their Lives
Not long after that experience, a friend of one of my daughter's went out with his buddies. He was of drinking age, but he had had too much to drink and, because he wasn't feeling well, didn't want to "party" anymore. Or perhaps he was already passed out and nobody wanted to awaken him. We never found out the whole story.
Thinking Jack just needed to "sleep it off," his friends left him in the car. Despite the cold weather conditions, they turned off the car and left Jack so they could resume their fun. They assumed he would be fine when they returned a couple of hours later.
What they didn't know was that Jack had become a victim of alcohol poisoning and that while they were inside, their friend was dying. By the time they returned to the car, Jack was dead.
Alcohol Poisoning and Doing The Right Thing
A couple of years after that, the son of a dear friend of mine went out with his friends. He was in his mid-twenties.
They had gotten into a minor car accident, but everybody seemed fine, so they continued with their night out. Dustin had fallen asleep in the back seat of the car, and his friends considered leaving him there while they resumed their fun.
Unbeknownst to them, the accident had caused Dustin's head to slam into the car, and his brain was swelling inside his head. When they couldn't awaken him, they argued about whether or not they should tell his mother or just drop him off at home, sneak him into the house, and put him to bed. Finally they agreed to let Barbara know that they had been in an accident and that Dustin would not wake up.
Had they not told Dustin's mom when they did, Dustin's fate would have been the same as Jack's. Barbara drove Dustin to the hospital where they airlifted him to another hospital. Doctors removed part of his scull where the brain was pushing outward. Dustin remained in a coma for several months, and the doctors gave Barbara little hope for his recovery.
When Dustin was finally able to go home from the hospital several months later, Barbara quit her job to stay with him. Today Dustin is a quadriplegic. Today, thanks to his mother's constant care, he is not the vegetable the doctors predicted he would be.
He may never recover his speech* or his short-term memory. He may never recover his mobility. But he has family and friends who care for him and he is able, with the help of a communications board, to communicate with them.
Tragedy And The Party Girl
Cory was a young professional woman during the week and a party girl on the weekend. One night she had a little too much to drink and probably indulged in some drugs as well.
Nobody ever got the whole story, because her "friends," possibly afraid of being discovered to have also been involved with drugs, dumped her body in an alley. They could have dropped her off at a hospital. Instead they chose to leave her in an alley.
Cory was either already dead when they left her alone in that alley or she died in that alley. Nobody ever found out, and nobody ever admitted to being with her that night.


Preparing Teenagers and Young Adults To Be Responsible For Themselves and Their Friends
Kids and young adults sometimes behave in ways they don't want to admit. Teenagers resort to lying or to evading the truth if they fear repercussions. But being honest will prevent them from burying a friend and feeling guilty for the rest of their lives. Being honest saves lives.
For teenagers and young adults, it's not always a matter of drinking and driving. Drinking alone can have disastrous effects. Alcohol poisoning is an all-too common problem and kids need to be aware of the effects of alcohol poisoning. Knowledge could save a friend's life.
Teach your children to admit their mistakes. Admission is the more responsible action to take than is lying. Mistakes happen and owning up to mistakes can help children become responsible adults. Leaving a friend in the car, when they know their friend has passed out from drinking or drugging, can be potentially dangerous, if not downright fatal.
Signs and Symptoms of Alcohol Poisoning
Had I known these signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning when Marty came into my home after having been hidden in the shed, I would have called 911 immediately instead of waiting for Marty to respond. According to Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning are:
• Confusion, stupor
• Vomiting
• Seizures
• Slow breathing (less than eight breaths a minute)
• Irregular breathing
• Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
• Low body temperature (hypothermia)
• Unconsciousness ("passing out")
According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, "Alcohol depresses nerves that control involuntary actions such as breathing, the heart beat, and the gag reflex (prevents choking). A fatal dose of alcohol will eventually stop these functions. After the victim stops drinking, the heart keeps beating, and alcohol in the stomach continues to enter the bloodstream and circulate throughout the body."
In addition to choking on vomit, alcohol poisoning can cause an irregular heart beat, hypothermia (low body temperature) and hypoglycemia (too little blood sugar), which can lead to seizures.
IMPORTANT INFORMATION CONCERNING ALCOHOL POISONING
"How much is too much?" That's the question alcoholscreening.org asks. By filling out their questionnaire, you can find out if your (or somebody else's) alcohol consumption falls within a normal range or if you are at risk for alcohol poisoning.
How do you take care of somebody who might be a victim of alcohol poisoning? First know what you shouldn't do. Never treat alcohol poisoning yourself. Black coffee won't help. Neither will taking a cold shower.
And NEVER force drinkers to vomit. People suffering from alcohol poisoning may accidentally inhale vomit into their lungs and die.
Promote Honesty Without Impunity
As parents, we have to acknowledge that our teenagers will make mistakes. And we have to admit that their behavior will sometimes disappoint us.
But we, as parents, have to create an environment of trust so that if our children drink too much or take drugs, they will feel safe enough to tell us the truth. Honesty can mean the difference between life and death. Alcohol poisoning is a serious issue that needs to be taken seriously. If children are afraid of being punished for telling the truth, they will lie.
Discuss these signs, symptoms, and scenarios before anything serious happens, because according to Mayo Clinic, "A person who is unconscious or can't be roused is at risk of dying."
Report Alcohol Poisoning or Drug Overdose
After you dial 911 call 1-800-222-1212. The call will automatically route you to your local poison control center. When emergency medical technicians arrive, let them know how much alcohol the drinker consumed or what drugs he or she ingested. That information will help them treat alcohol poisoning or drug overdose more effectively.
*With Dustin's mother's loving care, Dusty can now speak

Sources:
http://www.alcoholscreening.org/
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/alcohol-poisoning/DS00861/DSECTION=symptoms
http://www.nhtsa.gov/

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