Helping a Drunk Friend

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At some point in your life, you will probably be in a situation where you will want to look after a friend who is drunk. In these situations, you should be ready to offer some help.

How might you know if a friend has had too much to drink? Some people might be able to drink a lot with little to no effect, whereas others might be affected after one drink. Signs that your friend has had too much to drink might include:

•Problems stringing words together to make a coherent sentence;
•Acting strangely and doing things that aren’t characteristic of their normal behavior;
•Throwing up;
•A glazy look in their eyes;
•Inability to walk straight and bumping into people and objects;
•Passing out.

Alcohol poisoning occurs when someone has too much to drink in a short period of time. If your friend has been binge drinking – for example, downing a number drinks in a row – they might be confused, start vomiting, have slow or irregular breathing or even “pass out”. Your friend could be in serious trouble if some of this is going on. If your friend loses consciousness, dial 911 to get medical help immediately. If your friend is conscious, the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 will also be able to help. For more information check out the Mayo Clinic’s steps to take when you suspect a friend has alcohol poisoning.

In a non-emergency situation, what can you do to help? Being a good friend means looking out for each other when you go out. If you think your friend might have had too much to drink, there are a number of things you can do to help like staying with your friend, let your friend know that it would be a good idea to stop or slow down their drinking, to drink water or to eat something.

Later on…

At an appropriate time, you may want to tell your friend about how worried you are about their drinking and how being worried about them takes the fun out of social situations for you. If you worry that their drinking is a chronic problem, you may also want to suggest they think about seeing an addictions counselor. Check out the Helping a friend with a drinking problem section for more suggestions and the Resources section.


Acknowledgement: This fact sheet was originally developed by youth and staff at ReachOut.com, a website that helps teens get through tough times.  
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