UT University Health Services

Alcohol Overdose and the Bacchus Maneuver

If the person is unconscious, semi-conscious or unresponsive, check for these symptoms of alcohol or drug overdose:

  • Cannot be roused and are unresponsive to your voice, shaking, or pinching their skin.
  • Skin is cold, clammy, pale, bluish and/or blotchy.
  • Breathing is slow - eight or fewer breaths per minute.
  • Experience lapses in breathing - more than 10 seconds between breaths.
  • Have seizures, convulsions or rigid spasms.
  • Vomit while asleep or unconscious and do not awaken.

When in doubt, remember MUST HELP.

MUST - mental confusion, unresponsive, snoring/gasping for air, throwing up, HELP - Hypothermia, erratic breathing, loss of consciousness, paleness/blueness of skin

Courtesy of Aware, Awake, Alive

If any of these symptoms of alcohol overdose exist, call 911 for help, and stay with them while waiting for emergency personnel:

  • Gently turn them onto their side and into the Bacchus Maneuver position.
  • Don't leave them alone at any time and be prepared to administer CPR.
  • Remember that there is a chance that a person who has passed out may not ever regain consciousness and there is a serious risk that death could occur.

If they are conscious and responsive:

  • Check often to make sure they are still conscious and responsive.
  • Make certain that they stay on their side, not their back. Gently turn them onto their side and into the Bacchus Maneuver position.
  • Before you touch them, tell them exactly what you are going to do. Be aware of any signs of aggression. Do not ridicule, judge, threaten or try to counsel them.
  • Remain calm and be firm. Avoid communicating feelings of anxiety or anger.
  • Keep them quiet and comfortable. If they are in the sun, move them to the shade. If cold, move them to a warm place and offer a blanket.
  • Don't give them food, drink or medication of any kind.
  • Remember that only time will sober up a drunk person. Walking, showering or drinking coffee will not help and may actually cause harm.

What can happen if an alcohol overdose goes untreated?

  • A person could choke on their vomit.
  • Breathing may slow down, become irregular, and stop.
  • Heart may beat irregularly and stop.
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature).
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can lead to seizures.
  • Severe dehydration from vomiting, which can cause seizures, permanent brain damage, or death.

Seek medical help for a friend who has had too much to drink. Your friend may become upset if you call 911, but it's better to have your friend alive and upset than to lose them.

Responding to alcohol overdose:

Whether someone is conscious or unconscious, first perform the Bacchus Maneuver.

If someone passes out from drinking too much, you can help by positioning them so they will not choke on their vomit. If you are worried about them, get medical attention, especially if you can't awaken them to the point that they can talk to you.

The Bacchus Maneuver

  1. Raise the arm that is closest to you above their head. Prepare to roll them towards you.
    Bacchus Maneuver
  2. Gently roll them toward you, guarding their head from hitting the floor. The head should rest in front of the arm, not on it.
    Bacchus
  3. Tilt the head up to maintain airway. Tuck their nearest hand under the cheek to help maintain head tilt and raise the face off the floor.
    Bacchus
  4. Check on them often.

Helpful Links

Alcohol and Drugs
Bruce the Bat
Alcohol Overdose and the Bacchus Maneuver
Study Drugs

Programs and Classes

Individual Consultations
AlcoholEdu and SAPU
Brief Alcohol Screening Intervention for College Students (BASICS)
Center for Students in Recovery
Student Amnesty for Alcohol Emergencies
SHIFT




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