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Substance Abuse Services

What To Do for Someone Who's Had Too Much To Drink

At one time or another, almost everyone drinks more than he or she should have. Sometimes emotional factors contribute to excessive consumption. At other times, people miscalculate the strength of what they are drinking or forget they haven’t eaten beforehand. When this happens, the immediate issue is not why someone has become intoxicated, but what to do about it. The behavior of someone who has become intoxicated is unpredictable at best. There are, however, some practical approaches one can take.

  • Alcohol affects the brain, and a person who is heavily under its influence is not able to be rational. Therefore, to argue or attempt to reason with a person in an intoxicated condition is likely to yield only frustration for both parties.
  • An intoxicated person can, however, sense how those around feel toward her or him. Through tone of voice, expression, and movements, one can both demonstrate concern for the welfare of the intoxicated person and try to help the person remain calm.
  • Only time allows the body to metabolize alcohol. Drinking coffee or taking a cold shower does not reduce intoxication, and maybe dangerous (e.g. risk for choking; risk of falling).
  • If a person becomes aggressive or belligerent, it is important to keep calm. Appearing nervous will probably transfer anxiety and accelerate the situation. Be direct, but not authoritarian. Present positive alternatives to the individual. Show respect, but define your limits and stick to them. Try to get the person seated and/or distracted if they’ve become angry. If you need help, call UNI Public Safety at 273-4000.
  • If an intoxicated person falls asleep or passes out, monitor his or her breathing. Do not allow the person to remain lying on his or her back. Place the individual on his/her side. An intoxicated person can suffocate by vomiting while sleeping. Make sure they can be roused and can respond to questions. If they cannot respond or become uncontrollable, call for help immediately.
  • At all costs, an intoxicated person should be kept from driving. Have a plan for taking care of someone who has drunk too much and don’t be afraid to implement it. Offer to call a cab or allow your guest to spend the night. If he or she insists on driving, car keys should be calmly and firmly taken away. Another approach is to disconnect the car’s distributor so it won’t start. Since even a small amount of alcohol can alter the ability to drive safely, if there is any doubt at all, use the precautions listed above.