Alcohol and Drugs: When to Get Help for an Intoxicated Person
Signs that an intoxicated person might need medical evaluation include:
- An injury. An intoxicated person may not feel pain normally, so he or she may not be aware of an injury or realize how serious it may be. It is not uncommon for an intoxicated person to vomit once. But an intoxicated person who is confused or not acting normally and vomits more than once may have a more serious problem, such as a head injury.
- Decreasing consciousness. Frequently tap or gently shake the person and shout, "Are you okay?" He or she should become more alert as time passes. If the person is becoming harder to arouse, it may mean his or her condition is getting worse. Sometimes a person's condition may get worse because the alcohol or drugs have not yet been completely absorbed into the body.
Most people can be cared for at home by family or friends when they are intoxicated. If you think the intoxicated person's condition is getting worse and you are concerned you will not be able to provide a safe environment, seek medical help.
To help an intoxicated person:
- Stop the person from taking more alcohol or drugs. You may have to remove the person from a bar or party. If he or she is at home, remove the alcohol or drugs from the house.
- Stay with the person or have someone else stay with the person until his or her condition has improved.
- Provide a safe place for the person to rest. Do not allow the person to drive a vehicle or operate machinery. Take steps to prevent falls.
- Find out what the person has used: alcohol, illegal drugs, or prescription or nonprescription medicines. The use of alcohol with medicines or illegal drugs may increase the intoxicating effects each has on the body. You might want to call the poison control center (1-800-222-1222) for help if you don't know anything about any drugs the intoxicated person has taken.
- Find out whether the person has other health problems that could affect his or her current condition. For example, diabetes or a seizure disorder could make the person appear intoxicated.
Current as of: August 21, 2019
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor, MD, MMEd, FRCPC - Emergency Medicine