Alcohol poisoning among college students turning 21: do they recognize the symptoms and how do they help?

Laura Oster-Aaland, Melissa A. Lewis, Clayton Neighbors, Jane Vangsness, Mary E. Larimer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: The aims of this study were to (1) determine recognition of and self-reported concern regarding alcohol poisoning symptoms versus other alcohol-related behaviors among students turning 21 years old, (2) assess the frequency of helping behavior among students in situations where peers display alcohol poisoning symptoms, (3) assess sources from which students seek help, and (4) consider reasons why students report reluctance to seek help. METHOD: Students (N = 306; 50% male) completed a Web-based self-report assessment during the week before their 21 st birthday focusing on drinking behavior, alcohol-related consequences, concern for symptoms of alcohol poisoning, and observations of and experience with helping behavior. RESULTS: Results indicated most students report having helped another student with symptoms of alcohol poisoning and show concern about the symptoms. Students most often seek help from other students and parents. When students do not help their peers, it is most often because of the perception that help is not needed. Heavier drinkers report a greater likelihood to help a peer showing symptoms of alcohol poisoning. CONCLUSIONS: Prevention professionals should incorporate students, friends, and parents in interventions that provide knowledge and helping strategies for alcohol poisoning symptoms. In addition, prevention efforts regarding alcohol poisoning should focus on heavy drinkers, as they are most likely to be in situations requiring help. Finally, administrators implementing medical amnesty policies should couple those policies with educational strategies aimed at recognition of alcohol poisoning symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)122-130
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of studies on alcohol and drugs. Supplement
Issue number16
StatePublished - Jul 2009


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