It's that time of year when alcohol infused celebrations become common at graduation parties, backyard barbecues and beach gatherings. The New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers says the spring and summer seasons are when they see a spike in alcohol-related calls. Situations can quickly become dangerous when too much alcohol is involved.

NJ Poison Control Managing Director Bruce Ruck said a person who appears to be drunk or passed out may show early signs of alcohol poisoning. If someone passes out from drinking too much, the worst thing a person can do is follow the "sleep it off" myth. It can be quite dangerous.

Ruck said depending on how much alcohol a person drank, he or she can stop breathing in the middle of the night. If they're passed out, someone would never even know it.

A person who "sleeps off" a drunken stupor may start to vomit, which can end up in their lungs. Then they can have problems breathing or even choke to death, said Ruck.

Alcohol poisoning is preventable. Ruck said first and foremost, nobody under the age of 21 should be drinking alcoholic beverages. But if a person is going to enjoy a cocktail, he suggested drinking moderately and slowly. Eat food with alcohol.

"Don't chug your alcohol. Don't have drinking contests to see how much you can drink versus somebody else," added Ruck.

Space drinks to about one an hour or less and Ruck said that should decrease a person's chance of getting drunk and running into problems.

But be aware. If a person is with a friend who is unconscious from drinking too much alcohol, can't stand up, wake up or even talk, they need to seek medical attention immediately.

He also said that if you put a drunk person to bed to "sleep it off," their body will still absorb the alcohol while sleeping. If that's the case, Ruck said they can die overnight. Also, if a person is taking medications and drinking, that can be extremely dangerous. So all these things come into play.

When in doubt if a situation is a medical emergency or not, call the New Jersey Poison Control Center at Rutgers 24/7 at 1-800-222-1222.

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