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Teen's Death Exposes Binge Drinking Dangers

Acute Alcohol Poisoning Can Kill


Updated June 23, 2014

Julia Gonzalez

Julia Gonzalez

Family Photo
When the lifeless body of 16-year-old Julia Gonzalez was found by a passer-by in Pedretti Park in Trulock, California, her death was a mystery that captivated the public and the news media for more than three months. How did the attractive, petite young teenager die?

The initial autopsy was inconclusive. Then the coroner's office received the toxicology report. Gonzalez's blood-alcohol content at the time of her death was a whopping 0.52 -- more than six times the legal limit for adult intoxication in California.

Julia Gonzalez died of acute alcohol poisoning. The coroner ruled her death accidental.

16 Drinks in an Hour

"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," Deputy Coroner Kristi Herr-Ah You told The Modesto Bee. "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.

Gonzalez, who lived with her grandmother, was last seen Dec. 29, 2007, leaving her house with friends who were apparently headed out to have a good time during the final few days of their Christmas break from school.

Friends Did Not Call for Help

None of her friends, and no one else, are talking 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.

"This investigation has been hamstrung from the start because 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 have abandoned her in death just as they did on the night she died. That is why Julia Gonzalez died. When she got into trouble that night -- drinking entirely too much, too quickly -- and began to exhibit symptoms of acute alcohol poisoning, her friends did not call for help.

Way Too Common Binge Drinking Story

Unfortunately, Julia's story is not a rare one. It happens way too frequently to young, inexperienced drinkers who engage in extreme binge drinking, get far too intoxicated to function, and their friends think they are just drunk and passed out.

Or more often, everyone is underage and drinking illegally and are 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 experiencing alcohol poisoning. Here are the critical symptoms of acute alcohol poisoning:

  • Mental confusion, stupor, coma, or person cannot be roused
  • 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 drunk friend cannot be aroused, is breathing too slowly and is cold to the touch, call for help immediately. If they are vomiting, stay with them, don't leave. Yes, it's unpleasant, but staying could save a life.

Try to keep them sitting up. If you can't keep them upright, make sure they are laying on their side with their head turned to one side. Watch for signs of choking.

Do not give them 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 July 2007.
The Modesto Bee. "Huge amount of alcohol killed teen, coroner says" March 20, 2008.

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