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How to care for someone who has had too much to drink

I recently received a brochure entitled "How to Care For Someone Who Has Had Too Much To Drink"

It was mainly intended for the college crowd.  I’m not a doctor, but I figured someone might stumble on to my site looking for an answer to this question.  Therefore, here is the text of the brochure:


While most college students understand the importance of drinking responsibly, situations can arise where people become very drunk.  Providing care for a person who is drunk is important; failure to act could result in a life or death situation.  By following the steps outlined here, you will be better prepared to handle an alcohol-related emergency:

  • Stay calm so the person will remain calm.  Don’t communicate anxiety.
  • Assess the situation.  If the person exhibits any of these symptoms, call 911 immediately
    • Is he/she breathing fewer than 8 times per minute?
    • Do More than 10 seconds pas between breaths?
    • Can you get a reaction by calling his/her name or pinching him/her?
    • Is his/her skin cold, clammy or pale blue in color?
  • Get help if the person becomes violent, or if you believe the alcohol has been combined with other drugs
  • Keep your distance.  Before approaching or touching, explain what you intend to do in a calm, reassuring manner.
  • Keep the person comfortable.
  • Prevent him/her from driving or biking.
  • Stay with the drunk person.  Don’t leave him/her alone to sleep it off.  If the person cannot be wakened periodically, seek immediate medical attention.
  • Providing food, aspirin or caffeine may increase the risk of vomiting.  Providing liquid stimulants will only result in a wide-awake, agitated drunk person.
  • Don’t put the person in a cold shower.  The shock may cause the person to pass out, resulting in injury.
  • Don’t force the person to exercise to burn of the alcohol, this could also cause injuries.
  • Know that time is the only thing that will sober the person up.
  • Utilize the support of others; enlist involvement of friends.  Get a sober friend if you are intoxicated.

Providing care for someone who has had too much to drink can mean the difference between a tragedy and an ill-fated evening.  If you feel concerned, chances are you should be concerned, and you should act o protect that person.  Ramifications are substantially more significant if a tragedy occurs.

Adapted from Tri-State University’s "Taking Care of an Intoxicated Person," Trinity University’s "Caring for an Intoxicated Friend," and "Reducing High-Risk Drinking" from Ohio University.


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