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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

In Minnesota, an individual may be immune from prosecution for violating the underage consumption law if the individual, or another person, contacts a 911 operator to report the need for medical assistance for an immediate health or safety concern, provided that the person who initiates contact is the first to make such a report, provides a name and contact information, remains on the scene until assistance arrives, and cooperates with the authorities at the scene.

The University of Minnesota student conduct code aligns with this state law.

For more information on the state law, contact University Student Legal Services, 612-624-1001, 

For information about the Student Conduct Code and medical amnesty, contact the Office for Community Standards, 612-624-6073,