Alcohol Poisoning – What to Do In a Pickle

Alcohol Poisoning (Elsie Dusting)

It’s a Thursday after exams and you’re at the Nott, celebrating your exams. As usual, there’s always that one friend who has had a bit too much to drink, and you wonder if you should be worried. Turns out they were just taking a quick powernap before their next iced beverage. But that’s not to say the next person over isn’t in trouble.

Everyone has known someone who needed to be helped home after a wild night. But what should you do when somebody has fallen unconscious and you’re worried about them?

Alcohol is rampant everywhere you go: pubs, clubs, house parties, in Aunty Martha’s “fizzy drink”. In fact, it’s been found that the average party goer consumes an average of 7 drinks by 1am on a weekend night. So what does this all mean? Well, medically that means that you’re binge drinking.

Let’s break it down. A standard drink contains 10 grams of alcohol. So how much your beer has in it depends on its alcohol concentration. This is displayed on all alcohol bottles. We’ve summarized the standard drinks for you below; a full list can be found at


How much is 10g of alcohol Standard Drinks
1 Can/Stubbie low-strength beer 0.8 Standard drink
1 Can/Stubbie medium-strength beer 1 Standard drink
1 Can/Stubbie full-strength beer 1.4 Standard drink
100ml of wine (13.5% alcohol) 1 Standard drink
30ml spirits 1 Standard drink


According to the National Guidelines, the recommended limit for men and women is 2 standard drinks. A binge is any occasion where 4 or more standard drinks are consumed within two hours.

So, what happens when your friend goes beyond the recommended limit? You’ve seen (and probably experienced) their slurred speech, foggy thinking, and that overly loud behaviour that many revelers exhibit. But when should you be really, really worried?

Alcohol is a depressant, which means that it interferes with the way your brain functions. This can result in failure of your gag reflex kicking in, and can alter your breathing, leading to dangerous consequences.


If your friend shows any of the following symptoms- call 000!

Often these are serious sign of alcohol poisoning:

  • Seizures
  • Choking on their vomit
  • Unconsciousness or unable to be roused
  • Irregular breathing, slowed breathing or no signs of breathing
  • Bluish-pale lips, cold clammy skin
  • Confusion


It’s important to remember that the only thing that truly helps sober someone up is time. But in the meantime there are things you can do:

  1. The most important thing is to STAY with your friend.
  2. Make sure you try and keep your friend awake (perhaps by enticing them with the smell of maccas).
  3. If at any point they do fall unconscious or look like they’re choking in their sleep turn them onto their side in the recovery positions (see the picture below). This will help open their airway and prevent them from choking on their tongue or vomit. Don’t ever leave someone who is vomiting and if they exhibit any of the serious alcohol poisoning symptoms call 000.
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Time for a quiz – True or false?

Beer before liquor, never been sicker; liquor before beer, you’re in the clear FALSE

This is a common misconception. Getting a hangover is dependent on the amount of alcohol you drink rather than the order that you drink it in. In the end it’s about how many standard drinks you take and how quickly you drink them that determines whether you get a hangover.


Forcing yourself to vomit up the alcohol helps you sober up. FALSE.

This is really bad because the gag reflex is impaired when drunk and you can accidentally choke on your vomit. Moreover, by the time you decide to vomit up the alcohol, it’s already in your system and will take quite a while to metabolise. The reason you feel more sober though is because of the adrenaline released from the physical effort of vomiting. Give it 30 minutes though and you might not be feeling so great.


Walking your friend around can work off that alcohol? FALSE.

Only time can overcome the effects of alcohol and dragging your drunk friend around the block can result in trips and falls.


The key guys, is to prevent the worst before it ever happens. Remember to pace yourself; by keeping track of the number of drinks you’ve thrown back, you’ll be sure to be pleasantly buzzed without all the regrets the next morning. The standard drinks table above is helpful to track your drinks, but you can always look at the details on any alcohol bottle as well. Even if you feel like you’re missing out on all the chugging competitions, your wallet (and liver) will thank you by setting a limit on the drinks you buy.

Of course, the number one rule of the game is to NEVER ever drink on an empty stomach. Have a nice carb heavy (if you’re not on a diet) meal with your buds before you head out for a great night. Alcohol is absorbed straight from your stomach lining, and if there’s food there already it will take longer for the alcohol to take effect. Also sorting out a plan to get home can motivate you to reign it in. Knowing you have a bus to catch or a specific time your ride is going to pick you is helpful.

No one’s saying not to have fun, but the next time you get really worried for your friend you’ll know exactly what to do.


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Apathy and Urgency



June 5th, 2013, The first reports of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) mass surveillance programs were released to the public. You heard about it, of that I am certain. You were outraged, disappointed, yet maybe unsurprised. But at that first moment of confirmation, you were worried. You used incognito mode every time you browsed, thinking it might do something, you cleared your cache and history, and wondered if something you’d looked up would leave you with some unwanted attention. More allegations emerged about the US government spying on its citizens, though they got less and less coverage. By the time a month had passed, the effect of the leaks on you had faded. You’d forgotten. Your interest had waned. Though for some the effects are far from over. They are not ‘out of sight, out mind’ like they might be for us.  

Residing in Russia after having been granted temporary asylum there –which has recently been extended to the year 2020, Edward Snowden, a champion of U.S intelligence transparency continues to promote issues of privacy and anonymity. Still he constantly involves himself in live video conference talks in every corner of the world, including in Melbourne where he spoke last May. In conversation with Julian Morrow of Chaser fame, Snowden reiterated to the audience that powers of Australian Intelligence services are now “much more unrestrained than they are in the United States, despite how dire the situation is there”. The respected outsider acted more or less as a light through the fog, reminding us of what is happening right in front of our eyes.

Snowden reaffirmed for his audience that there have been some successes from his actions three years ago. In the United States, the requirement for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) to approve or deny surveillance requests was established. The Email Privacy Act which would prevent general acquisition of private emails, was introduced as a bill to the United States Congress and the specific NSA program Snowden’s leak exposed has since been shut down.

But there have been failures too. The FISC did not deny any requests last year; the Email Privacy Act has stalled in the US Senate. In Australia, public outrage has not been matched by policy. Under the National Security Legislation Amendment (2014), increased penalties for disclosing information about security operations were introduced –the legislation applies to both those within and outside of the intelligence community. This had the effect of making it harder for whistle-blowers and journalists to bring such material to light. Where was all the fuss kicked up by both the media and the public when it was passed? Why do we look away in the first place? I wonder if reading it now might change anything.

It is often hard then to feel as if any progress is being made. But there are small steps. European responses were more wholehearted, though still lacking, with a general wave of condemnation from European governments. Importantly, there was a German investigation into strategies to prevent the re-emergence of mass surveillance. But equally they have dawdled on implementing any actual measures to do this.

In the final days of his administration, President Obama commuted the sentences of many prisoners, including Chelsea Manning who was convicted of espionage in 2013. During his presidency, however, the rules for data sharing between the NSA and other intelligence agencies were loosened. This meant that all the excessive personal data collected by surveillance programs will continue to be in the possession of the Federal Government of the United States. While Obama’s commutations set some precedent – though nothing formal, for the treatment of whistle-blowers, the issues raised by them and the need to protect whistle-blowers like them seem to have receded from any real scrutiny.

Australians have largely dismissed the Snowden leaks as a rather irrelevant, foreign problem. We cannot do that with the Panama Papers, released in mid-2016. Major Australian companies such as NAB, ANZ and BHP Billiton were named in the papers, alongside Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull –although he himself was not implicated of any wrongdoing. Such allegations are something we must acknowledge and confront.

These are merely a few of so many leaks that continue to be reported about and subsequently forgotten. There were ‘The Drone Papers’, published by The Intercept. These papers detailed how people end up on US kill lists -though the leaks themselves have not been without due criticism. Furthermore, there were many other leaks published by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, concerning deaths and displacement in Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo by Australian mining interests.

All these stories have come and gone, already bowing out of the spotlight, often with limited public impact. Do you remember seeing it on television? Do you remember it as trending news? As a top rated post?

Why do we forget so quickly? These sorts of crises are now a constant. It seems as if every week, there’s another story breaking. We are forced to discard them so quickly just to keep up with what’s happening next. From leaks, to wars, to elections and administrations, there is so much news we don’t have the time to understand its gravity or its consequences.

Even now, we regularly follow leaks of questionable ministerial spending by the Federal Government, with new accusations of wrongdoing emerging almost daily. How about the explosive reports coming from the United States regarding Russian interference in their presidential election?

Is it that we toss aside any information doesn’t immediately affect us? Surely not, because responses to the actions of government wrongdoing both here and the US have been vivid and immediate. We do watch each other’s backs, though not necessarily for long enough. It is doubtless that governments and corporations will continue to act illegally and uncompromisingly to serve their own interests. But we cannot allow the existing voter apathy to evolve into ‘corruption apathy’, in essence the normalisation of these revelations after we’ve spent our collective outrage. Every morning it seems we can wake up to another story that would have been unthinkable a year ago. With an extended public push, not only just when these issues arise but instead until we see a resolution, perhaps then we would be able to unite together in a fight for greater political transparency, integrity, and legitimacy.

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Healthy Skepticism

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Electrons are the creepiest particle


Electrons. Tiny, little, smaller-than-microscopic things that people tend to forget exist when going about their day to day lives. You learnt about them in science class. They have something to do with electricity. And they’re EVERYWHERE.

You probably are quite familiar with these concepts. But have you ever considered… just how creepy they are? The key to their creepiness lies in quantum theory. Quantum theory, by definition, is weird. As many famous physicists have said in varying different ways: “if you think you understand quantum mechanics, you really don’t”. Electrons as quantum particles act in weird ways. Weird and kinda creepy ways…

One of the first things you learn about if you do quantum physics is the double slit experiment. There are two tiny tiny slits in a wall, and something gets aimed at the two slits which then may or may not change the path of this ‘something’ which we then detect on the other side. Now, we can do this with an electron gun, shooting one electron at the two slits at a time. After doing this quite a few times (after all, repetition is a vital part of science!) what do we detect on the other side?

A wave interference pattern!
Yes. That’s right. If you thought an electron was as simple as a particle, you would be wrong. In this situation it acts like a wave! What’s weirder, is that only one electron is going through the two slits at a time. It’s almost like it somehow goes through both slits at the same time and interferes with ITSELF. Like, what the hell is an electron anymore? Do you know? Because I sure don’t.

Now we’re going to change the experiment a bit. We want to see exactly what’s going on at the slits, so we’re going to put a detector on one slit to tell us when an electron goes through it. Th at’ll settle things, right? We repeat the experiment exactly as before, using the electron gun to shoot one electron at a time towards the double slit. We look at the results and blink (a bit at them) in surprise. Th is time there is no interference, nothing more than a completely ordinary pattern as would be created by a particle. So that begs the question: Why does adding a detector completely change the results of the exact same experiment? How does the electron ‘know’ that there is a difference between the two? How can it be a wave in one experiment, and a particle in the other? What actually is an electron?

Time for round 2. There’s this thing in physics called Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle. One aspect of this principle is that it is impossible to predict where a quantum particle will be at any point in time. It’s possible to predict where it’s most likely to be, but not where it definitely will be. Th is means we have no idea where electrons are most of the time. Can we set up a detector saying when they’re at a certain point? Sure. But when that electron leaves that point we have no idea where in the universe it is. Theoretically, it could be at the other side of the universe. (Th at’s very unlikely, but the fact that the possibility exists is pretty cool and/or creepy, depending on your opinion.)

This is how Schrodinger’s cat thought experiment was thought of. The idea is that an electron is in a contained area. If the electron is in one half of this area at a certain time, a poison is released into a box with a cat in it. If the electron is in the other half, no poison is released and the cat will be fine. Th ere’s a 50/50 chance that the poison has been released, and we have no way of knowing if it has or not before opening the box with the cat in it. So the argument is, if we don’t open the box, the cat is in a superposition, being both dead and alive, and only opening the box will force the cat to be one way or another. Kinda weird, right?

Here’s another weird thing. Th e electron is being held back by an energy wall. It just doesn’t have the energy to jump over that wall. Th e poor electron 🙁

So what’s an electron to do?

Have you ever tried walking through a wall like the wizards do to get to Platform 9 3/4? Did it work out? Most likely your answer is ‘no’. (If your answer is ‘yes’ then please do write about it for Lot’s Wife. I want to read all about it.) It is an accepted fact. People just can’t walk through walls. Th at’s why the ability to do that would be ‘magical’. Now, electrons live in a different world than us. A world so tiny, the ‘magical’ becomes ‘normal’. What would you say if I told you that under the right circumstances electrons can barge right through that energy wall that was holding them back? Th at they can transmit information instantly from one electron to its partner which is faster than the speed of light? Th at people have successfully teleported electrons? Yes, that’s right, the quantum world is literally magical.

If you’re not creeped out by now, let me leave you with a final thought. Since there is a small probability that an electron could be anywhere in the universe, why can’t it be possible that every electron in the universe is actually the same electron, but everywhere at the same time?

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