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Medical Amnesty Policy

The overarching priority of Emerson College with respect to alcohol and other drugs is to ensure the safety and well-being of our students. The College is committed to providing guidance so students can learn to develop a responsible approach to social challenges, including whether to use alcohol, how to do so in moderation, and how to comply with local, state, and federal laws governing alcohol consumption.

Emerson expects students to abide by laws and College policies regarding alcohol and drug possession and consumption. For those students who choose to consume alcohol, Emerson expects that they do so in moderation and thereby minimize the incidence of alcohol poisoning and alcohol-related injuries.

However, the College acknowledges there may be times when students face medical emergencies involving excessive drinking and/or drug use. In these situations, students are expected to call for assistance (e.g., Resident Assistant, Police Department, 911) when concerned for their own health or welfare, or that of another student.

In order to encourage students to seek prompt and appropriate attention for alcohol or any other drug intoxication, the College has instituted a Medical Amnesty policy, applicable to:

  • A student requesting medical assistance for himself/herself,
  • A student seeking medical assistance for another person, and
  • The student for whom medical assistance was sought.

Seeking medical assistance for oneself or a fellow student demonstrates responsible student behavior (see “Seek Assistance” below). When evaluating an alcohol violation, the College will consider whether a student sought medical assistance for oneself or another person in need, and in most cases view the act of seeking medical assistance as good judgment and accordingly not deserving of typical disciplinary sanctions. The student requiring medical assistance, and possibly the referring student(s), will be required to meet with members of the Office of Housing and Residence Life and Office of Student Conduct for a formal review of the incident. If it is determined that the Medical Amnesty policy applies to a given situation, the concerned students will not be subject to a disciplinary fine or disciplinary action for possession or consumption of alcohol or any other drugs. However, parental notification and referral to meet with Counseling and Psychological Services and wellness educator still apply. A record of the incident will remain on file in the Office of Student Conduct reflecting the outcome of the incident.

Please note that this policy does not excuse or protect those who repeatedly or flagrantly violate the Student Code of Conduct. If a student received Medical Amnesty for a prior incident, the availability of amnesty for a subsequent incident is at the discretion of the Dean of Students or his/her designee. If other infractions are concurrent at the time of intoxication, including (but not limited to) physical or sexual assault, distribution of illicit substances, or property damage, this policy does not apply.

Signs of Intoxication/Overdose

If you drink or have friends who drink, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning. It is not necessary for all symptoms to be present before you seek help. Signs followed by an asterisk may also indicate opiate or sedative/hypnotic drug overdose.

  • Vomiting
  • Confusion, stupor
  • Seizures
  • Slow breathing (fewer than eight breaths a minute)
  • Irregular breathing
  • Blue-tinged skin or pale skin
  • Low body temperature (feels cold & clammy to touch)
  • Unconsciousness ("passing out")

Signs of an amphetamine overdose may include:

  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Increased temperature/sweating
  • Behavior changes indicated by increased anxiety, delirium, or psychosis

A person who is unconscious or can’t be roused is at risk of dying.

Seeking Assistance

Even if you don’t see the classic signs and symptoms, but suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, err on the side of caution: seek immediate medical care. In an emergency, follow these suggestions:

If the person is unconscious, breathing fewer than eight times a minute, or has repeated and uncontrolled vomiting, call 911. Even when someone is unconscious or has stopped drinking, alcohol continues to be released into the bloodstream and the level of alcohol in the body continues to rise. Never assume that a person will "sleep off" alcohol poisoning.

Don’t leave an unconscious person alone. While waiting for help, turn the person on his or her side; don’t try to make the person vomit. People who have alcohol poisoning have an impaired gag reflex and may choke on their own vomit or accidentally inhale (aspirate) vomit into their lungs, which could cause a fatal lung injury.

Your assistance and support in helping the College keep you and your fellow students safe is most appreciated.