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Tip 24:          Vomiting

If my friends and I think we have had too much to drink we just head to the bathroom and, you know, force ourselves to puke.  That seems to help things so we can drink a lot more.  My brother who doesn’t drink is trying to tell me there is something wrong with me and my friends.  What do you think?

Miriam J.,   University of Oregon, Freshman

I always vomit the day after some heavy drinking.  It seems to help my hangover.  I am at the point now that I force myself to vomit so I feel better.  It works and I feel a whole lot better but I guess it’s not healthy.

Ryan N.,   V.C.U., Junior

There is a valve between our stomach and small intestine called the pyloric valve.  Theoretically, this valve helps provide some protection from alcohol poisoning.  An increased Blood Alcohol Level will cause the valve to close thus preventing any further alcohol from entering the intestinal tract.  In turn, this prevents any more alcohol from entering the bloodstream. If we keep ingesting more alcohol or food, we eventually begin to vomit.


Miriam and Ryan, although vomiting has a somewhat protective function, it also causes some serious damage – especially if it is done regularly. Frequent vomiting can result in tears in the esophagus and gastroesophageal junction as well as spontaneous stomach erosion, perforation or ruptures.


Additionally, vomiting can cause acid reflux disorder.  This occurs when partially digested items in the stomach are vomited back up with stomach acids and enzymes, damaging the esophagus, larynx and lungs.  Cancer of the throat and larynx can be an unfortunate result of acid reflux disorder.


Finally, excess vomiting can contribute to dehydration - the depletion of fluids in the body.  


Ryan and Miriam, your questions refer to vomiting while conscious.  For the person who has passed out, vomiting could become deadly.  The drinker could choke on his/her own vomit because the drinker is too intoxicated to wake up and clear out the air passage. 


If you encounter someone who has had too much to drink and is asleep or passed out, turn the person on his/her side.  If the drinker gets sick and vomits, the airways will not be blocked and he/she will not choke.  Stay with the person. Monitor breathing and make sure the person does not roll onto his/her back. 

(See Tip #3: Alcohol Poisoning)


If you observe blood while vomiting, you may have some serious damage in your digestive tract.  Be sure to speak to a doctor!

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