It turns out, Amy Winehouse didn’t die from drugs or alcohol withdrawal. Her official cause of death was from alcohol poisoning. The Grammy-winning singer was only 27 years of age.

Alcohol poisoning is relatively common, with 50,000 people in the United States diagnosed with alcohol poisoning each year. It’s typically caused by binge drinking during a short period of time. Binge drinking is heavy alcohol consumption that occurs intermittently and is five or more drinks in a row for men or four or more for women, generally within 2 hours. Approximately 90 percent of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 is in the form of binge drinking. What happens is, the body absorbs alcohol more rapidly than it’s able to clear the alcohol. It takes your body about an hour to process one drink. By one drink, we’re talking about a 5 ounce glass of wine, a 12 ounce bottle of beer or an 80 proof shot of alcohol. What happens when someone succumbs to alcohol poisoning, alcohol enters the brain and causes a loss of consciousness, a drop in body temperature, low blood pressure, coma and even death.

Symptoms of alcohol poisoning include unconsciousness to the point where someone doesn’t even respond to being pinched. Slow or irregular breathing (less than 8 breaths per minute, 8-10 seconds between breaths). Low body temperature, slow heart rate, pale skin, and vomiting while passed out are also signs to note when it’s time to call 911 for alcohol poisoning.

The 2011 Texas Legislature amended Texas Alcohol Beverage Code (TABC 106.04) to address alcohol poisoning. Under the 911 Lifeline legislation, a person under 21 cannot be charged by the police for possessing or consuming alcohol if the person calls 911 because someone else might have alcohol poisoning. This limited immunity applies only to the first person to call for medical assistance. And the caller must remain on the scene until medical assistance arrives and must cooperate with EMS and law enforcement. They call it the 911 Lifeline Law.

Until help arrives, keep them on their side, perform CPR if needed and don’t leave them alone. Don’t draw a moustache on them, photograph them and post it on Facebook. Having to explain the ambulance and hospital bill to their parents is going to be bad enough.

Until next week….

Daun Thompson