'Just Another Drunk, Or Is It?' Discussed at Expo

It can be too easy to dismiss the patient with slurred speech, an odor on his breath and an altered mental status as an intoxicated person, according to Emery (Paul) Roberts with Fines Creek (N.C.) Fire Department.

Over the counter drugs can also be used to get high including cough syrup, which can produce euphoric like dreams and other hallucinations. In quantities too concentrated, they can produce an of out-of-body experience and the inability to reason and follow simple instructions and commands.

Markers for use on stationary, glue, aerosol propellants and a variety of cleaning agents can be “huffed” to get high, which all present similar symptoms, Roberts said.

And there are even new ways to get intoxicated on the old standby – alcohol, Roberts said.

Some have found that nebulizing alcohol is a very fast way of becoming intoxicated, Roberts said, noting that it’s dangerous because it is absorbed immediately into the blood stream.

“So, there are no stop-gaps like there are when a person drinks alcohol,” Roberts said, noting that people start throwing up when they’ve had too much to drink. That won’t happen, however, when the nebulizer is used.

Plants can be intoxicants too, particularly common ones like Morning Glories, Angel Trumpets and Datura which create a kind of atropine that can last up to three days, Roberts said, adding that some plants can produce substances like LSD and LSA.

So, when it comes down to dealing with people who appear to be intoxicated, whether it’s a person slumped over the wheel of a car, or passed out on a sidewalk, or face down on a desk in the office, it’s the provider’s duty to look well beyond the obvious and look for the root cause of the person’s condition, Roberts said. Even “frequent fliers” deserve a second look and verification, even if it is the umpteenth time providers have responded.

“It only takes one bad person to make us all look bad,” Roberts warned.