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How to Help a Drunk Person?

Alcohol is the most widely used psychoactive, or mood-changing, recreational substance. There is a large spectrum of alcohol use and associated problems in the US. Supporting those with alcohol use problems, whether it be alcohol dependence or alcoholism, risky alcohol behavior, injury from alcohol, alcohol-induced psychosis, or alcohol poisoning, has obvious benefits. These benefits extend beyond the individual to their families, workplaces, and society.

Knowing how to care for a drunk person properly can sometimes be the difference between life and death for that individual. When someone drinks too much alcohol, they’re at risk of injuring themselves or others, surrendering to possible alcohol poisoning, or potentially choking on their vomit in their sleep. To properly take care of a drunk person, you need to identify the signs of alcohol poisoning, ensure the safety of that person, and take the correct steps to help them sober up the right way.

It is important that members of the general public know how to recognize when a person is suffering from alcohol intoxication and how to help them if the situation arises.

How to help a drunk person
If a friend or a family member is using alcohol in a risky fashion, then their alcohol problem needs to be addressed by a professional.

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5 Key Tips that will Help You Help a Drunk Person in the Best Possible Way

1. Make sure they stop drinking.

The first thing that you need to do is to make sure that you keep them from drinking anymore. It is quite difficult for a person to convince another drunken person that drinking more is bad for them, so you need to use some tricks.

Make sure that you talk with the barman or with the waiter to stop giving them alcohol. If you are at a party, tell them that you are going to make the drinks for them. When you make a drink you should use a small quantity of alcohol or no alcohol at all. A severely drunk person will not tell the difference between a beverage with alcohol or one without any alcohol.

2. Keep them in a proper position.

It is very important to stop a drunk person from sitting on their stomach or on their back. There is a high risk they will vomit and choke. Also, do not let them sleep alone because many people have died in their sleep while they were drunk.

3. Make sure they don’t engage in risky behavior.

You should definitely keep the drunken person from driving a car, fighting with other people, hurting themselves, etc. It is very possible for a drunken person to engage in such behaviors, so be cautious. Also, make sure you don’t hurt yourself while taking care of them.

4. Keep them hydrated and take care of their emotional state.

Make sure that you keep them hydrated. Water helps eliminate alcohol faster. Also, when a person drinks a lot, they usually drink for a reason, so being there for them while they tell you their problems will help.

5. Take them to the emergency room.

If the person you are taking care of stops breathing, hurts themselves or passes out, you should definitely take them to the emergency room. Also, if the person who drank too much has any illnesses which can put their lives in danger when consuming alcohol, like diabetes or heart problems, don’t waste any time and rush them to the hospital.

If you follow the rules above you might save someone’s life. Also, after the person recovers you should confront them about their drinking. If this wasn’t the first time they got severely drunk, you might suggest to them that they have a drinking problem.

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Understanding Alcohol Abuse

Without fully understanding alcohol abuse and alcoholism, it can be hard to talk about it with your loved one who’s struggling. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) [1], alcohol use disorder (AUD) is when one can no longer control their use of alcohol, compulsively abuse it despite its negative consequences, and experience emotional distress when they are not drinking.

How to Help a Drunk Person
Denial is also an integral part of the disease for many, making it difficult for them to acknowledge their need for treatment.

Alcohol use disorder is a chronic, relapsing disease that is diagnosed based on an individual meeting certain criteria outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). However, there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to understanding alcohol use disorder. It is a complex and multifaceted disease, so while someone may inherit a predisposition to it, genes do not fully determine a person’s outcome.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) also explains that because alcohol use disorder is a disease, it is an involuntary disability. This means that although individuals choose to drink initially, it may be out of their control to quit once they become addicted. In addition, as the disease progresses, negative physical, emotional, and social changes are experienced, such as marital problems, changes in mood, alcohol withdrawal, health issues, or job loss.

Stages of Being Drunk – Levels of Alcohol Intoxication

What Does It Mean To Be Drunk? When you drink alcohol, it enters the bloodstream and begins affecting your body and mind quickly. Drinking alcohol can cause someone to become drunk. Ethanol is the active ingredient of all alcoholic beverages. It is a toxin that has an effect on the human body that can be good or really bad depending on how much you ingest. 

Ethanol is absorbed into the bloodstream by way of your stomach and intestines and then spreads all over the body in your bloodstream, making its way toward your brain. Ethanol decreases the effects of glutamate, which makes your brain sharp and attentive. Glutamate is also responsible for alertness, reaction time, and memory. 

When ethanol kicks glutamate in the gut, it will have the reverse effect on the human body. Slurred speech, slow reaction, subdued coordination, and a general woozy feeling. It can also impair decision-making abilities which is one reason you might think it’s a good idea to order another round.

There are different stages of drunkenness. The effects of alcohol intake will vary depending on several individual factors, but they highly depend on the amount of alcohol consumed. Depending on the blood alcohol content (BAC), the effects can be very mild, or they can result in death. Blood alcohol content (BAC) measures the level of alcohol in your system. The higher your BAC, the more you will feel the effects of the alcohol you have ingested.

Sober

The first stage of being drunk is known as subclinical intoxication or is commonly known as being sober. It occurs when someone has consumed a small amount of alcohol and does not appear intoxicated. This level usually happens at a BAC of 0.01 to 0.05 and occurs with one drink or less per hour for most individuals.

Euphoric

The second stage or level of intoxication is known as euphoric and occurs at a BAC of 0.03 to 0.12. Usually, this stage occurs with to three drinks per hour for men and one to two drinks per hour for women. It is commonly being referred to as being tipsy.

Excitement

A blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.09 to 0.25 is referred to as the excitement stage. At this level, someone may lose emotional stability and start slurring their speech. Other people will notice that the person is drunk. The stage typically occurs in men after three to five drinks per hour and in women after two to four drinks per hour.

Confusion

This stage of intoxication occurs when a person reaches a BAC of 0.18 to 0.30. For most men, this stage occurs when they’ve drunk more than five drinks per hour. and for women, more than our drinks per hour. A person may experience an alcohol blackout at this stage. People at this stage will likely also have their balance and coordination impaired enough to result in staggering and inability to stand.

Stupor

The stupor stage happens when a person reaches a BAC of 0.25 to 0.40. At this stage, people are at an increased risk of alcohol poisoning. The gag reflex may stop working properly, and it may be possible to choke on vomit. They are also at risk for respiratory depression, so medical attention is needed.

Coma

When a person’s BAC reaches 0.35 to 0.50, there is a high chance of coma. The person may be completely unconscious with no reaction to their surroundings. A person will likely experience a body temperature drop, poor blood circulation, possible respiratory depression, and possible death.

Death

The risk of death significantly increases when someone’s BAC surpasses 0.45. At this stage, the body may not be able to maintain vital functions like breathing. Respiratory depression is a likely cause of death. However, remember that death is still possible at an earlier stage and with other BAC figures.

How to Deal with a Drunk Person?

Here are seven suggestions on how you can stay safe when dealing with a drunk person:

  1. Stay calm and approach them in a non-aggressive stance, open, empty hands in a friendly, non authoritative manner.
  2. Try not to tell them what to do, but offer them choices and make your movements nice and slow
  3. Be confident yet non-threatening with them and show genuine concern for their well-being.
  4. Find their sober friends; they will respond to them and they are often able to calm them down, rather than someone they do not know.
  5. Engage with them and ask them questions about themselves, if a commotion did start, keep them occupied and distracted.
  6. Minimise the risks, if your working day means that you could become involved with an inebriated person, ask your employer for staff training and practice scenarios on how to deal with aggressive or vulnerable people.
  7. Always be prepared to leave the situation. If the intoxicated person has begun to lose control, walk away. Your personal safety is a priority. Take a positive action to remove yourself from the situation and call for support and back up. 

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Alcohol Overdose and the Bacchus Maneuver

If the person is unconscious, semi-conscious, or unresponsive, check for these symptoms of alcohol or drug overdose:

  • Cannot be roused and are unresponsive to your voice, shaking, or pinching their skin.
  • Skin is cold, clammy, pale, bluish and/or blotchy.
  • Breathing is slow – eight or fewer breaths per minute.
  • Experience lapses in breathing – more than 10 seconds between breaths.
  • Have seizures, convulsions or rigid spasms.
  • Vomit while asleep or unconscious and do not awaken.

If any of these symptoms of alcohol overdose exist, call 911 for help, and stay with them while waiting for emergency personnel:

  • Gently turn them onto their side and into the Bacchus Maneuver position.
  • Don’t leave them alone at any time and be prepared to administer CPR.
  • Remember that there is a chance that a person who has passed out may not ever regain consciousness and there is a serious risk that death could occur.

If they are conscious and responsive:

  • Check often to make sure they are still conscious and responsive.
  • Make certain that they stay on their side, not their back. Gently turn them onto their side and into the Bacchus Maneuver position.
  • Before you touch them, tell them exactly what you are going to do. Be aware of any signs of aggression. Do not ridicule, judge, threaten or try to counsel them.
  • Remain calm and be firm. Avoid communicating feelings of anxiety or anger.
  • Keep them quiet and comfortable. If they are in the sun, move them to the shade. If cold, move them to a warm place and offer a blanket.
  • Don’t give them food, drink or medication of any kind.
  • Remember that only time will sober up a drunk person. Walking, showering or drinking coffee will not help and may actually cause harm.

What can happen if an alcohol overdose goes untreated?

  • A person could choke on their vomit.
  • Breathing may slow down, become irregular, and stop.
  • Heart may beat irregularly and stop.
  • Hypothermia (low body temperature).
  • Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), which can lead to seizures.
  • Severe dehydration from vomiting, which can cause seizures, permanent brain damage, or death.

Seek medical help for a friend who has had too much to drink. Your friend may become upset if you call 911, but it’s better to have your friend alive and upset than to lose them.

Responding to Alcohol Overdose

Whether someone is conscious or unconscious, first perform the Bacchus Maneuver.

If someone passes out from drinking too much, you can help by positioning them so they will not choke on their vomit. If you are worried about them, get medical attention, especially if you can’t awaken them to the point that they can talk to you.

Whether someone is conscious or unconscious, first perform the Bacchus Maneuver.

If someone passes out from drinking too much, you can help by positioning them so they will not choke on their vomit. If you are worried about them, get medical attention, especially if you can’t awaken them to the point that they can talk to you.

The Bacchus Maneuver

  1. Raise the arm that is closest to you above their head. Prepare to roll them towards you.
  2. Gently roll them toward you, guarding their head from hitting the floor. The head should rest in front of the arm, not on it.
  3. Tilt the head up to maintain airway. Tuck their nearest hand under the cheek to help maintain head tilt and raise the face off the floor.
  4. Check on them often.

How Can I Tell if my Friend Needs Help?

Your friend may need your help if they:

  • Can’t talk properly and have glazed eyes
  • Are acting strangely and doing stuff they wouldn’t normally do
  • Are vomiting
  • Are falling over or running into things, or can’t walk straight
  • Have passed out.

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Alcohol Treatment

Regardless of their level of alcohol misuse and whether they’re in denial, seeking the guidance of addiction treatment professionals can help you better understand how treatment works and what that may look like for your loved one.

If they remain in denial and aren’t ready to seek alcohol addiction help, it may be time to consider an intervention. An intervention is a process that typically involves a drug and alcohol counselor, physician, or intervention specialist along with family and friends.

Treatment may involve medication-assisted treatment (MAT) to ease withdrawal symptoms, therapy through a rehabilitation program to understand the addiction and change behaviors, and long-term aftercare programming such as peer support groups to help maintain sobriety and avoid relapse.

Knowing how to help a drunk person, especially if he or she is a loved one, is vital. and can save their life. If you suspect that you or someone you care about has alcoholism, it may be time to seek professional alcohol addiction help. Research has shown that inpatient rehabilitation treatment can be very effective in helping individuals maintain a life of sobriety. We Level Up NJ provide proper care with round-the-clock medical staff to assist your recovery.

How to Help a Drunk Person
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Sources:

[1] NIAAA – https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/brochures-and-fact-sheets/understanding-alcohol-use-disorder