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We Asked An Expert How Playing Beer Pong with Hard Liquor Could Kill You

We talked to a doctor after a Canadian teen died at a house party.
Manisha Krishnan
Toronto, CA
February 23, 2016, 9:44pm

Brady Grattan died at a house party earlier this month. Photo via Facebook

A teenage boy from New Brunswick, Canada died playing a variation of beer pong earlier this month, where he substituted beer for hard liquor at a party in Grand Prairie, Alberta.

Brady Grattan, 18, who moved from Fredericton to Grande Prairie after graduating from high school last year, died February 4 after collapsing during the party.

His parents, who are now speaking out to warn others about the perceived dangers of beer pong, said they received a phone call from across the country saying Brady had been found unconscious at a party.

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"They were going to put him in hypothermia state, cool his body, and then wake him up over 24 hours and I was hopeful," Brady's father Cory told the CBC.

His parents said they learned from other teens that Brady had been found in a basement of a house party where he'd been playing beer pong. But instead of beer, the kids were drinking hard alcohol—it's unclear exactly what they were consuming.

When paramedics arrived on scene, they resuscitated Brady.

"He flat-lined on the way there, then they revived him again," Grattan said.

By 12:45 AM Brady was in the Intensive Care Unit, where he later died. He was only at the party for about two hours.

Jack Uetrecht, professor of pharmacy and medicine at the University of Toronto, said the situation is "unfortunately not that surprising." But he said it would be near impossible to die from playing beer pong with actual beer.

"With most drugs, if you double the dose you double the concentration in the blood—alcohol doesn't work that way. If you double the dose you more than double the blood concentration. You can get into trouble pretty quickly."

If booze is consumed slowly, or on a full stomach, much of it can be absorbed before reaching the bloodstream. But if you drink it fast enough—like in a game of beer pong—it'll go straight into the blood.

Once your blood-alcohol level reaches 0.4, "you're at risk of dying," he said.

Uetrecht explained that alcohol keeps getting absorbed in a person's body even after they lose consciousness. The risk increases when drugs like Valium and energy drinks are added to the mix, he said.

"With most of these things, people just stop breathing…it's like being under a general anesthetic."

But because Brady was taken to hospital, where machines could breathe for him, Uetrecht said it's possible he died of cardiac arrhythmia, which is when your heart pretty much acts like "a bowl of jelly, it just sort of quivers. The individual muscle cells are contracting but not in a coordinated way so it doesn't pump blood."

As for beer, though, Uetrecht said, "physically to drink enough beer to die, I think it would be hard to do."

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