Teenagers and young adults drink alcohol – beer, wine, hard liquor – and they do so in homes, schools, dorm rooms, frat houses, cars, clubs, boats, and more. It’s fun, it’s part of the party, it’s a stage for many in growing up and changing from children to adults. Underage drinking and binge drinking are realities for Indiana as well as the rest of the country.
However, drinking too much alcohol and the young person can suffer from alcohol poisoning. Inexperienced drinkers may drink too much and by doing so, risk their health and even their life. Alcohol poisoning is real.
Signs of Alcohol Poisoning
- Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or person cannot be roused.
- Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute).
- Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths).
- Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness.
People are encouraged to call 911 for emergency medical help when they suspect that someone is suffering from alcohol poisoning. This can be the difference between life and death. However, for those who are drinking alcohol in violation with state law, I.e., underage drinkers, there may be a concern they will be arrested if they reveal they have been drinking beer, wine, liquor, etc.
In response to this, the Indiana Legislature passed a law to protect young people in these drinking emergencies.
Indiana Lifeline Law Passed in 2012
For Indiana alcohol poisoning emergencies faced by young people, a statute is on the books called the “Indiana Lifeline Law” which will bar the police from arresting young people who are trying to get help in an alcohol-related medical emergency.
“College students were the true leaders last year who helped organize and make the case for getting this new law passed in the Legislature. Now we need them to continue to lead in getting the word out that the Lifeline Law is in force to encourage medical intervention if their fellow students make mistakes with alcohol. If students understand how the Lifeline Law works, we hope they will not be reluctant to call 911 – and instead will readily seek medical help for impaired friends and not look the other way,” Zoeller said.
Technically this is a statute which provides “immunity” to the person who calls 911 for emergency help when someone is exhibiting symptoms of alcohol poisoning. It means that the local prosecutor cannot file criminal charges based upon a violation of the state alcohol drinking laws (illegal possession of an alcoholic beverage, for example) against the young person who is taking responsibility and trying to get medical help.
Injury Liability Claims for Underage Drinking
This law protects people against criminal liability, and it’s a good one. However, it is important for parents as well as school officials, fraternity and sorority organizations, and other responsible parties, that if some young person is seriously injured or killed due to the over-consumption of alcohol and they are underage, then there may be civil issues to be addressed, including the duty of adults to protect these young people while in their care and oversight. Claims based upon negligence seeking monetary damages may be filed in these instances to cover the alcohol poisoning victim’s medical expenses, long term care needs, and more.
National Poison Prevention Week in March 2014
National Poison Prevention Week 2014 will happen during the week of March 16-22. For more information about National Poison Prevention Week and how to participate in a poison prevention event in Illinois or Indiana, please call the nationwide toll-free number, 800-222-1222, set up by the Poison Prevention Week Council.