Teens Need to Learn First Aid to Prevent Binge Drinking Deaths

Recovery position allows vomit to drain

Recovery position allows vomit to drain

I recently learned about the tragic loss of a young Ontario university student who lost his life due to binge drinking. He was at a party where 911 wasn’t called until several hours later. This situation deeply saddens me as his death – along with many others – could have been prevented if party-going teenagers just understood the dangers of binge drinking and learned some simple first aid skills.

Rean Heckroodt died on October 9, 2016 after a night of partying with friends. Rean passed out and asphyxiated in his own vomit after drinking close to a litre of hard liquor in an hour. Regrettably, it wasn’t until the next morning that his friends called 911. The Heckroodt family is hoping that other teens will learn from their tragedy.

Rean was 18 years old and a promising, first year business student at Wilfred Laurier University in Waterloo. He, like many others his age, was enjoying university life and new-found freedoms away from home.

Often these freedoms include the widespread use of alcohol and drugs. Indeed, the highest prevalence of binge drinking occurs among young adults aged 18 to 25, peaking in the college/university years.

Binge drinking is the consumption of five or more drinks at a sitting for males and four or more for females. Binge drinkers can suffer a severe and potentially fatal reaction to alcohol overdose known as alcohol poisoning. It can cause teens to pass out, feel sick and drown in their own vomit. Some people laugh at their friends’ drunken behaviour, even when they pass out. But this is no laughing matter and teens need to know the dangers of these risky behaviours. Alcohol poisoning or the asphyxiation due to the aspiration of vomit can lead to death.

Alcohol poisoning: Signs and Symptoms

Too much alcohol entering the body too quickly can depress the central nervous system, slowing bodily functions such as heart rate, blood pressure and breathing to dangerous levels. This can cause a drinker to go unconscious.
Signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning include:
 Strong smell of alcohol.
 Loss of consciousness or decreased level of consciousness.
 Slower, irregular breathing or lack of breathing.
 Pale, bluish, cool and clammy skin.
 Vomiting

What to do for an alcohol poisoning emergency

Check the person first to see if he or she is responsive and breathing. To do this, call the person by name and tap the shoulders. Place your ear close to the person’s mouth and nose to listen for breathing. Look at the person’s chest to see signs of breathing.
 Call 911 immediately when:
• the person doesn’t wake up (unconscious) or semi-conscious
• is having difficulty breathing or is not breathing
 Never leave someone who has been drinking excessively alone to sleep it off.
 Place the person on the side in the recovery position. This allows vomit to drain to prevent choking (see photo above).

The party culture of binge drinking is dangerous and risky and young people need to understand the risks. Alcohol poisoning causes the loss of many young lives each and every year and these are preventable deaths. First aid skills such as those described above are not only easy to learn but save lives.

Please share this blog with parents, teens and young adults.

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