Underage Drinkers Continue to Flood Local Hospitals for Alcohol Poisoning

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Each spring underage students arrive in Panama City Beach, prepared for a week of illegal alcohol consumption and binge drinking.
However, many find themselves waking up instead, inside of an emergency room.

"I think we've gotten at least a handful per shift, more during the night,” said Dr. Kevin Kulow, talking about the number of Gulf Coast Medical Center patients suffering from alcohol abuse.

The vast majority of these patients are underage with many requiring around the clock care, even a ventilator. They're the lucky ones.

The ones who don't seek treatment can suffer alcohol poisoning, which can be deadly.

"Our first clue, is usually that they're completely unresponsive and won't wake up even to painful stimuli,” explained Kulow.

Statistics from the emergency room at Gulf Coast Medical Center show between March 7 and April 1 of this year, 32 kids were admitted for intoxication, or alcohol abuse, with the majority being between 18 and 20 years old.

"You can actually drink enough alcohol to stop your respirations. It's tough, but it is achievable particularly if you're drinking higher concentration, or higher proof, liquor,” Kulow said.

Dr. Kulow has been at Gulf Coast Medical Center for seven years of spring break traffic.

If there is any consolation, he believes the numbers are actually a bit lower this year than in years past.

"It's been a little lighter, honestly. I'm thinking back and last year was actually worse. We've gotten steadily better, I would say, in the seven years I’ve been here,” said Kulow.

State beverage agents wrapped up a 3-week-long statewide underage drinking operation in March.

Operation Spring Break 2010 resulted in over 1100 arrests across the state, 867 occurring in Panama City Beach.

However, the operation ended before the majority of the high school students started arriving for their spring breaks.



 
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