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How to Take Care of a Drunk Person

Two Parts:Helping a Drunk PersonAvoiding Common Mistakes

Every year in the US alone, numerous drunk students die or get car crashes as a result of alcohol. People assume that passing out, vomiting, and being really drunk will be slept off, resulting in a simple hangover next morning.[1] Unfortunately, thinking this could endanger lives -- both the drunk person's and others'. When someone at a party near you gets so drunk that he can't take care of himself, he's at risk of harming himself, and if he's drunk too much altogether, he may even have alcohol poisoning and need immediate attention. Being able to spot alcohol poisoning in a drunk person could mean that you save his or her life; knowing what to do to take care of a drunk person is therefore an essential skill for all party-lovers.

Part 1
Helping a Drunk Person

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    Recognize someone who has had one too many. There are a lot of things you can look for to tell whether someone has had more than enough to drink. Signs that a person has drunk too much include:[2]
    • Slurred speech
    • Inability to remain standing or sitting up straight
    • A marked desire to lie down or roll over
    • Questionable walking technique or stumbling
    • Unusual, loud, inappropriate, or embarrassing behavior
    • Violent reactions
    • Bloodshot, glassy, or watery eyes
    • Trouble remembering things
    • Extreme and sudden changes in behavior or mood
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    Determine how much care the person needs. The amount of care your drunk friend or acquaintance will need will depend on how much he or she has had to drink. Each individual's situation will need to be evaluated according to context and circumstances, but the main point is to be prepared to care for him until he's out of danger.
    • You should never leave someone who has been drinking heavily alone to "sleep it off." This could be extremely dangerous for the drunk person, who could injure himself or stop breathing.[3]
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    Step in to discourage further drinking. Try distracting the intoxicated person from having any more alcohol.[4] Get him away from the alcohol – take him to the front yard for a breath of fresh air, suggest that it's time to call it a night and phone a taxi, or simply sit with him away from the drinking area and talk. Find somewhere quiet and not too bright.
    • If he wants drinks, take responsibility for delivering drinks that won't harm him. Offer water or hand him a coke or fruit juice. If he's insistent on getting an alcoholic drink, you can claim that it contains vodka. Chances are he won't even notice, especially if you're distracting him in other ways such as talking or watching TV together.
    • Don't give the person coffee. Coffee can further dehydrate a person and irritate the stomach, which an already drunk person doesn't need to deal with.
    • If someone tends to overdrink, but has not yet drunk too much, suggest weaker drinks such as beer, and drinks which may be less appealing to drink in large quantities, such as full-flavored (bitter) foreign beer, instead of mixed drinks and liquor. This can make the level of intoxication easier for the drinker and friends to monitor. However, it is not a substitute for eventually stopping drinking.
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    Avoid saying anything that could provoke or anger the intoxicated person. Remain calm and reassuring at all times. The intoxicated person may be particularly moody or upset when he's drunk, so it's your job to keep a cool head.[5]
    • Try to avoid "you" statements, like "You've had too much to drink." Instead, try light-hearted statements that don't sound accusatory, like "You're looking a little green in the gills. Why don't we slow it down for a bit?"
    • Read How to keep your friend from driving drunk for information on stopping a determined drunk from driving.
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    Do your best to help the intoxicated person to avoid physical injury. Alcohol affects your judgment and balance, so the person may have trouble walking or moving properly.[6] Help the person to a safe seat or to the floor. If the intoxicated person begins to heave, try to help him to an appropriate place to vomit.
    • If a person is lying down when he begins to heave or vomit, place him in the recovery position, on his side with the higher knee bent. This is to prevent choking. Put something behind his back to prevent him from rolling back onto his back or stomach; vomiting in either position can cause him to choke or drown. If he is lying on a couch, ensure that he is facing AWAY from the back of the couch so that any vomit does not pool around the person's face (especially on leather couches).
    • If the person has fallen down, or you find him on the floor and are unsure whether or not he fell down, you MUST take him to get medical attention. Head injuries can easily be incurred in falling down, and intoxication can hide the usual signs of concussion or more serious head injury.
    • Lack of coordination will make walking very difficult, so don't suggest this as a way of "sobering up".
    • If the intoxicated person needs to visit the bathroom, accompany him and wait in the bathroom. It's all too easy for an uncoordinated drunk person to slip and bang a head and get knocked out on the hard surfaces in bathrooms.
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    Do not leave someone who is very drunk to fall asleep alone. Stay in the room with him. Watch a film or TV, read a book, or clean up after the party, but keep him in the room with you. If you take him home, ensure a responsible person will do the same.[7]
    • If you can't be with him, or you can't be sure someone else will keep an eye out for him, get on the phone to someone you know who will care enough to do this, such as a parent, guardian, sibling, or friend. Explain that it is urgent and that you have seen how wasted the person is. At the very least, keep watch over the drunk person until the changeover of responsibility.
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    Check regularly to ensure the intoxicated person responds to being stirred. Say his name loudly, ask him firmly to open their eyes, prod him and look for a response. Watch the chest or abdomen for breathing movements. A rate of 12- 20 breaths per minute is normal.[8]
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    Look for signs of alcohol poisoning. If breathing becomes slow (8 breaths per minute or less or irregular with 10 seconds or more between each breath), and the person is unresponsive to being prodded and pinched firmly, this suggests alcohol poisoning. Other possible signs include:[9]
    • Passed out or stupors – unconscious or semi-conscious, cannot be awakened
    • Blue lips and fingertips
    • Dehydrated
    • Rapid pulse
    • Vomiting while asleep and not waking up even when vomiting
    • Cold clammy hands/ feet.
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    Call emergency services immediately if you see signs of alcohol poisoning. If you're on campus, call the campus security or university police. Explain the situation clearly.[10]
    • You will not get into trouble for calling for help. Authorities prefer to keep people alive than to scold for irresponsible behavior. Drinking age laws and campus policies are in place to stop lives being endangered, not to cause people to abandon one another during a medical emergency. Treat this like it is – a medical emergency, not an offense.
    • Many campuses have a "medical amnesty" policy that will eliminate or reduce legal consequences for students in emergency situations due to alcohol.[11]
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    Stay with the intoxicated person until help arrives. Keep him warm and continue to monitor breathing. If a qualified first aider is available, call on her for help while waiting for the ambulance.
    • Don't panic. Stay calm. Although you're likely to be upset and afraid, it won't help the patient if you transfer this fear and anxiety to him. Reassure him, and in doing so, reassure yourself.
    • If the person is awake or conscious, do not touch or prod him without explaining what you're about to do; they may react violently.
    • If someone else is present, send her to direct the ambulance paramedics to your position.

Part 2
Avoiding Common Mistakes

  1. 1
    Remember that alcohol affects everyone differently. Every person reacts to alcohol differently, so just because you can knock back six beers and feel fine doesn't mean that others can.[12] Don't assume that because you and a friend have had the same amount to drink that you are both okay.
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    Do not force food on the person. By the time a person is very drunk, it's too late for food to "sober" him up. People who are intoxicated may also have dulled gag reflexes and could choke on food.[13]
    • If your friend is hungry and asks for food, you can give him something to eat, but monitor him closely to make sure he doesn't choke.
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    Don't try "sobering" tactics. Strong coffee, exercise, and a good slap in the face may be popular folk remedies, but they don't work. In the person's current drunk state, they could even be dangerous. The only thing that will really help the intoxicated person at this point is time (and hydration).[14]
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    Do not pour water over the person. When a person's drunk, his reflexes are blunted. Pouring water over the person to try and wake/sober him up could actually cause him to choke or drown.[15]


  • If the person you suspect to be suffering from alcohol poisoning is underage do not put off calling the emergency services for fear of getting them in trouble. The younger a person is, the more susceptible to alcohol they are, and the longer you leave them, the worse they could get.
  • If the drunk person gets agitated with him/herself or you for drinking so much, make sure you comfort them, no matter how mad or upset you are at the drunk person. Love will always help them to fight the hatred that they have built inside them.
  • If someone gets into a drunken state having taken in seemingly little alcohol, they may be lightweight but be wary of drinks being spiked or an interaction with over-the-counter, prescribed, or illicit drugs as well. Using high-energy drinks in combination with alcohol hides the usual signs of intoxication so that blood alcohol levels can become dangerously high. If you suspect this, get the person home and report it to health authorities, or take them straight to the emergency department.
  • Do not jeopardize your own health when looking after the person. Do not try to physically lift a drunken person or stop someone much larger than you falling down–you may injure your back. Instead, concentrate on protecting their head.
  • Stay calm with the drunk person. Don't be demanding with them, as you don't know how they will react.
  • Never let them go in water alone or unattended; they could drown.
  • It can be hard to reason with a drunk person. Stay calm and get help from someone else if possible.


  • Don't be the person who needs this kind of help. Don't assume people around you will know what to do to help you.
  • Don't force food on a drunk person; it could create a choking situation and food cannot sober them up.
  • Don't put a drunk person into a cold shower. It won't sober them and it could induce shock.
  • Don't induce vomiting in a person who is drunk.
  • If they are asleep, make sure they are on their side, with their face facing the same way as their body is, not on the stomach or back, for either way they could drown in their vomit. If they vomit, they can aspirate it and die.
  • Remain calm if the person's symptoms begin to concern you. Don't panic, but do call the ambulance. It is far better to be safe than sorry, and to let people who are trained make the decisions.
  • Never allow someone who is drunk behind the wheel of a car, ever. It's not only their life, but the lives of others too that are at stake.

Things You'll Need

  • Quiet space for recovery
  • Water
  • Cell phone
  • Blanket
  • Cool Head
  • Cold wet rags (to wipe their face)

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