Teen's Death Exposes Binge Drinking Dangers

Teen Binge Drinking Can Be Deadly

Julia Gonzalez
Julia Gonzalez. Family Photo

The death of 16-year-old Julia Gonzalez in Trulock, California, was a mystery that captivated the public and news media for more than three months. 

The initial autopsy was inconclusive, but the toxicology report showed Gonzalez's blood-alcohol content at the time of her death was 0.52, more than six times the legal limit for adult intoxication in California.

The coroner determined her death was accidental and Julia Gonzalez died of acute alcohol poisoning.

16 Drinks in One Hour Is Too Much

"At 5 feet 2 inches tall and about 100 pounds, Julia would have had to drink the equivalent of one pint of 86-proof whiskey in an hour to register that high," said the Deputy Coroner. "We're not saying that's what she drank, but that's what you'd have to drink at that weight to get to that level."

One pint of whiskey would be the equivalent of having 16 drinks in one hour.

Real Friends Call for Help

None of her friends would talk about what happened between the time Gonzalez left home at 7 p.m. and when her body was found at 5 a.m. the next morning.

"We can't find anyone willing to say they were in Julia's company while she was consuming alcohol or intoxicated -- even from a witness standpoint," Detective Brandon Bertram said.

Apparently, Julia's friends abandoned her in death just as they did on the night she died. When she got into trouble that night by drinking entirely too much, too quickly and began to exhibit symptoms of acute alcohol poisoning, her friends did not call 9-1-1.

A Tragic, But Common, Binge Drinking Story

Unfortunately, Julia's story happens way too frequently to young, inexperienced drinkers who engage in extreme binge drinking. They get far too intoxicated to function, and then their friends think they are just drunk and passed out.

Or everyone is underage, drinking illegally and hesitant to call for help.

The legal consequences of underage drinking pale in comparison to a friend losing her life because no one called 9-1-1.

Symptoms of Acute Alcohol Poisoning

There is a difference between sleeping it off and alcohol poisoning. Here are the critical symptoms of acute alcohol poisoning:

  • Mental confusion
  • Person cannot be woken up
  • Vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths per minute)
  • Irregular breathing (10 seconds or more between breaths)
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature), bluish skin color, paleness

Call For Help, Save a Life

If your friend won't wake up, is breathing too slowly and is cold to the touch, call for help immediately. If she is vomiting, stay with her and don't leave. Yes, it's unpleasant, but staying could save a life.

Try to keep her sitting up. If you can't keep her upright, make sure she's laying on her side with her head turned to one side. Watch for signs of choking.

Do not give your friend anything to eat or drink to try to sober them up. Don't put them in a cold shower.

The only thing that will sober someone up is time.

Most importantly, if you have a friend who has had way too much to drink and is experiencing any of the symptoms above, call 9-1-1. It could be a matter of life or death.

National Advisory Council on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Facts About Alcohol Poisoning (2008)
The Modesto Bee. "Huge Amount of Alcohol Killed Teen, Coroner Says" (2008)

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