University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

Safe U.

Responding To Alcohol Medical Emergencies

Alcohol overdose is a medical emergency. If you see someone passed out and unresponsive or you suspect someone has overdosed on alcohol, it is your responsibility to get help by calling 911 immediately.

Signs and symptoms of alcohol overdose:

  • Mental confusion, coma, inability to wake up
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (<10 breaths/minute)
  • Irregular breathing (=10 seconds between breaths)
  • Low body temperature, bluish skin color, paleness

Alcohol is a depressant that can make parts of the brain that control involuntary functions—like your breathing and gag reflex—shut down. Serious risks from this include choking on vomit and depressed respiration that can cause a drinker to lapse into a coma, stop breathing, and die.

While waiting for emergency personnel:

  • Keep an unconscious person on their side to keep them from choking if they vomit.
  • Cooperate with emergency medical personnel or police, and give them accurate information.
  • Don't worry about getting in trouble; your friend's life is more important. Minnesota has a Medical Amnesty Law to limit consequences for minors who call for emergency assistance, so people who are at risk for alcohol overdose receive prompt medical attention.

Medical amnesty

Minnesota has a Medical Amnesty Law to ensure that people who are at risk for alcohol overdose receive prompt medical attention. If you call 911 for assistance for yourself or a friend and are under 21, you and your friend will be immune from criminal penalties related to underage drinking or possession of alcohol. If you call for medical attention, you must remain with the person who needs it until help arrives in order to be covered under the Medical Amnesty Law. The University's student conduct code aligns with state law.