While one’s experience in college can vary wildly from campus to campus and from institution to institution, perhaps there is none that is quite as ubiquitous as that of exposure to alcohol. It can almost seem like a rite of passage. Indeed, it’s rare to find an individual who has never been, or even seen someone get drunk throughout his/her time at school. Alcohol is essentially what gum was in high school; everyone wants some and if you’ve got enough to share, suddenly everyone becomes your friend.
That being said, while such experiences can, and certainly does, make for a good time on most occasions, they can go south pretty fast as well. Given that most college students live in close proximity with one or more of their peers, it is more likely than not that some time along the journey that is your college experience, one or more of your room(suite, house, etc., whatever)mates will come in the middle of the night heavily intoxicated.
If (or rather, when) this happens, there are a number of tell-tale signs that should put you on alert. These signs include:
- Slurred Speech
- An Inability to Remain Standing/Sitting Up Straight
- A Marked Desire to Lie Down or Roll Over
- Stumbling/Questionable Balance While Walking
- Uncharacteristically Loud, Belligerent, or Embarrassing Behavior
- Excessive Shivering in a Temperate Room
If your roommate manifests any combination of these symptoms, check up on them; ask them if they feel all right, and regardless of their response (because chances are, they aren’t capable of exercising their best judgment), try to keep an eye on them just in case their body starts rejecting the alcohol they’ve consumed (via vomiting) and/or they pass out. Especially in case they start vomiting after they’ve passed out. In either or both of these events, do not just leave him/her alone to sort out his/her own business and take these general steps; chances are, they’ll thank you for it once they’ve had the opportunity to sober up.
Offer plenty of fluids. Water is optimal, but there are cases in which the intoxicated individual will insist on continuing to drink. In such cases, if said individual is drunk enough, one can usually get away with slipping them a soft drink; just hand them a diet coke and claim it has vodka in it; they won’t know the difference.
Keep an eye on them. Seriously, I cannot stress this enough. Short of driving, being drunk usually constitutes much more of a danger to oneself than to others. If, for instance, the intoxicated individual needs to visit the bathroom, accompany them to the bathroom. It’s extremely easy for an individual whose coordination is under the influence of alcohol to slip, hit one’s head, and consequently get knocked unconscious on the hard surfaces in bathrooms, which takes us to the next point.
Do your best to support them. As far as physical injuries go, most who are intoxicated experience them through some sort of fall. Again, beware of hard surfaces. If one begins to heave, try to take them to an appropriate location to vomit. If a person is lying or passed out on their backs or their abdomens when they begin to heave, turn them on their sides immediately. Sure, it gets messy, but it’s a bit more desirable than choking on or drowning one’s own vomit, don’t you think?
Support them emotionally too. Be calm and reassuring at all times. Throughout the entirety of the experience, avoid saying anything that can possibly come across as offensive or provocative to the intoxicated person. Those who are drunk can sometimes get pretty emotional, and will say and/or do things that they might not have said or done otherwise. It’s on you to take it all in stride.
Check them for signs of alcohol poisoning. Signs can include slow, irregular breathing (10+ seconds between each breath), blue lips, continuous vomiting/heaving while passed out, cold & clammy hands, and a consistent, significantly quickened pulse. If any of these symptoms are present, call your area’s emergency number immediately. You won’t get in trouble for calling a situation in; authorities are much more concerned with keeping students safe than scolding minor infractions, after all. Moreover, drinking age laws were certainly not implemented to cause individuals to abandon one another in the midst of medical emergencies. So treat these situations like what they are: medical emergencies rather than criminal offenses.
When they fall asleep, check up on them regularly. Say their name loudly, prod them, etc., whatever it takes to see if they respond to being stirred. This is so you can distinguish whether they’re asleep (in which case, you can relax a bit; you’re in the clear) or simply passed out (in which case you should still keep a close eye on them). Additionally, check their chest movements to ensure that they’re breathing at a regular rate (14-20 breaths per minute is considered acceptable) as well.
If you’re feeling generous, to cap it all off, place a cup full of water on their bedside table. It’ll help with their hangover whenever they wake up, and you’ll be that much of a better roommate.