What if you’re at a party during the holidays, and you witness your friend binge drinking (usually defined as five or more drinks in a row) and experiencing symptoms of alcohol poisoning? Would you know the symptoms?* Would you know how to help him or her – even how to save a life? Or would you hesitate to help because you, too, have been drinking and the police might arrest you for public intoxication?
In April 2013, Kentucky became the 17th state to pass a Medical Amnesty Law in relation to incidents of seeking help for anyone who shows signs of alcohol poisoning from binge drinking. You are guaranteed immunity from prosecution for certain alcohol-related offenses when you request emergency medical assistance for yourself or someone else due to alcohol over-consumption, or act along with another person in requesting emergency medical assistance.
Why grant medical amnesty? Because Kentucky law protects you when you “do the right thing” in an alcohol emergency. It requires a person to: provide his or her full name and all other relevant information requested by emergency medical personnel or law enforcement; remain with the individual needing medical assistance until professional medical assistance is provided; and cooperate with emergency personnel and law enforcement officers.
A person who meets the above qualifications shall be protected from the following criminal offenses:
- Alcohol intoxication, under KRS 222.202(1)
- Drinking alcoholic beverages in a public place, under KRS 222.202(2)
- Offenses related to possession of alcoholic beverages by a minor under 21 years of age, under KRS 244.085
- Providing alcohol to minors under 21 years of age or assisting minors under 21 years of age to purchase alcohol, under KRS 244.085 or 530.070
Unfortunately, the grim scenario above paints a realistic picture of binge drinking and reluctance to get help for the drinker. According to Kentucky’s Alcohol Prevention Enhancement Site, students between the ages of 12 and 20 frequently suffer and often die from lack of treatment: “Unintentional alcohol-related injuries are the leading cause of death for young people in the U.S.”
You must be pro-active, not reactive. That is, if you suspect alcohol poisoning, you should call 911. If police come to you first and catch you violating the laws governing the use of alcohol, you do not have immunity. So be intentional. Take action. Don’t just let them “sleep it off.” They might not wake up!
The Sullivan University Wellness Center director wants everyone well and alive in 2014.
*Read more about the A-B-C-D-Es of Recognizing Alcohol Overdosing.
About the Author:
Renee Rust-Yarmuth is Sullivan University’s certified wellness director/ advisor and labyrinth facilitator, as well as a licensed marriage and family therapist in Indiana. She also serves as a non-denominational chaplain at Sullivan’s Louisville campus.
When not working, she loves to read on either her Kindle or hardbound books, visit family (favorites are grandchildren!), play Scrabble, work out at Curves, and do leadership and service activities in the Rotary Club of East Louisville Sunrise. From her wellness advising over the past 10 years at Sullivan, she has developed a part-time practice as a relationship wellness adviser, emphasizing the “contours of relationship” – as if she were a poet, which she is (published)!