Unsafe Drinking can Chill Summer FunJul 9, 2014
When the weather warms up, many people like to crack open a cold one. But it only takes so many alcoholic drinks to impair judgment. Dr. Troy Madsen talks about the role alcohol plays in ER visits during the summer. He also gives some tips on how to have fun this summer while keeping it safe.
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Interviewer: Dr. Madsen, I want to talk to you about alcohol a little bit here because I know it's coming up on summer, and people tend imbibe a little bit more. I mean, being outside with a cold one is a thing a lot of people enjoy, but what happens when they enjoy too much? You've talked to me in the past that alcohol is a reason why a lot of people visit the ER. Am I remembering that conversation correctly?
Dr. Troy Madsen: You're right. It is. It is. There's a couple things with alcohol. Number one, there's the alcohol itself. And it's a classic thing on Friday nights or Saturday nights, we'll get the people who were dragged in by their friends to the ER because they drank too much and they're just out. They're concerned they're not going to even be breathing.
I mean, they're so out, and sometimes, in those patients, they're in such a bad situation that we actually have to intubate them, so we have to put a tube down their throat to protect their airway so that they don't vomit and then breathe it into their lungs. We admit them to the hospital while they're metabolizing the alcohol and working its way out of the system.
A lot of times with these situations, we may not do that, but they're still there all night in the ER just kind of hanging out, sleeping it off. So there's that issue, number one.
Interviewer: And that kind of drunk you know, right? Like, if you were hanging out with that person, you can see the deterioration throughout the course of the night, I would imagine.
Dr. Troy Madsen: Usually. Usually. You know, I've seen some awful situations before. I remember one situation where it was a young kid who was at a party and was just drunk and just fell down in the front yard. People just left him there, and he was out there. It was a bad situation. He was out there for an hour or more before someone realized, "This is not good. Call 911."
And, I mean, he ended up passing away. I mean, he had a severe brain injury because he was not breathing. He was faced down on the ground not getting oxygen to his brain. So you're right. Most people recognize it, but some people are, like, "You just drank too much. Let him sleep it off."
Interviewer: They're thinking he just passed out?
Dr. Troy Madsen: Yeah. And they're thinking, "He's sleeping it out on the front lawn." So you really have to be careful there.
Interviewer: And pay attention, I think, to the people that are around you.
Dr. Troy Madsen: Yeah.
Interviewer: All right. So what's the other problem with alcohol, then?
Dr. Troy Madsen: So the other problem is, then, combining alcohol with other things. It just tends to magnify things, you know. Once we start talking about alcohol and fire, alcohol and guns, or alcohol and vehicles, that's really what we see in the summertime.
You know, we're coming up on the time where people are getting fireworks and shooting fireworks off. If you combine alcohol with that, it just impairs judgment. I've seen people who have had basically a bottle rocket in a can getting ready to shoot it off, and it didn't shoot. So they had a little drink, and they think, "I'm going to look in the can. What's going on with this?"
And it shoots right into their eye. Or they're holding one of those M- 80's or one of these fireworks that they brought in from Wyoming or something and just hold it too long because their judgment's impaired from alcohol and it blows a finger off. So we see that, certainly combine it with fire as well or with ATVs or with anything like that. It just magnifies things.
Interviewer: Gotcha. So anything that you would need some clarity of thought to do, you might want to avoid alcohol.
Dr. Troy Madsen: Exactly. Exactly. You know, obviously, you can have some drinks. It's not a big deal, but just recognize that if you're working with something that potentially has some danger with it, that's what we see in the ER. Alcohol tends to impair people's judgment. They've had a few too many drinks, and then those drinks that are somewhat dangerous becomes much more dangerous.
Interviewer: Yeah, and I think everybody thinks, "Oh, I'm fine."
Dr. Troy Madsen: Sure.
Interviewer: But, really, how many drinks does it take to not be fine?
Dr. Troy Madsen: Yeah. And it's always hard to say. Maybe four or five drinks. Maybe someone gets to that point. Maybe after two or three, they're okay. But once they start to get to that point where they're just not quite as aware of the risks of what they're dealing with, that's where the issues come up.
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