In many cases, drinking too much alcohol will make you sick and you will stop drinking. There are many old wives’ tales about why someone vomits after drinking, but the real reason is quite simple- you’ve been poisoned. Your brain actually has specialised poison-control cells that detect when you have had too much alcohol and send a signal to your stomach to vomit. Vomiting is an attempt to get rid of any unabsorbed alcohol. If you can prevent any alcohol that’s still in the stomach form being absorbed into the bloodstream, it may prevent further poisoning and, in the process, save your life.

Many young people try to encourage their friends to vomit in an attempt to sober them up. They may do this in a number of ways, including urging the person to stick their fingers down their throat, making them eat, and making them drink copious amounts of water. Of course, vomiting is going to have no effect on the sobriety of the young person – all it will do is empty the contents of theirs stomach, possibly making them feel less nauseous. However, it may be useful in preventing further alcohol from being absorbed and therefore reducing the risk of further poisoning. If someone feels as though they want to vomit they should never be discouraged from doing so.

Force-feeding someone or making the drink huge quantities of water is potentially dangerous, yet these are ways of ‘looking after’ friends that many kids try. Young people need to be aware that vomiting can be life-threatening. If someone is vomiting, or looks as though they may start, stick with them- never leave them, not even for a few seconds. It can take just seconds for someone to choke on their own vomit. Most of the time, you can look after someone who is vomiting just by being there and monitoring the person. However there are times when you will need to call fro help. Some of the warning signs to look out for include:

  • vomiting for longer then 24 hours,
  • bile or blood in the vomit,
  • sever abdominal pain,
  • headache and stiff neck,
  • signs of dehydration, such as dark yellow urine or crying without tears.

Writer Paul Dillon, Generation Next speaker and drug and alcohol expert. Excerpt from “Teenagers, Alcohol and Drugs”. Editor Dr Ramesh Manocha.