In the United States, April is Alcohol Awareness Month. This month, theNCADD is focusing on trying to prevent under-age drinking. In part to raise awareness, this blog post is about how to help a friend who has become drunk. Because of their lack of experience with health and alcohol, many teenagers are unaware of what to do in a situation when a friend has had too much to drink. In attempts to keep those who make the decision to drink safe, below I’ve featured a post I had recently written for ReachOut (they’re an awesome organisation, check them out!) about how to Help a Drunk Friend. The edited post hasn’t hit the website yet, but will be posted once edited further and it’s ready. In the mean time, enjoy!

Helping a drunk friend

It’s likely that at some point you’ll be in a situation where you have to look after a friend who’s had too much to drink. They might be drunk for a number of reasons – maybe they don’t know how much alcohol they can handle, or they feel pressure to drink a lot, or they even just want to.

Whatever the reason, when someone is drunk, they’re more likely to get into unsafe situations. When it’s your friend, that’s where you come in.

Knowing the signs

Everyone is affected by alcohol differently, but here are some signs your friend has had too much to drink:

  • they can’t string words together to make a coherent sentence
  • they’re acting strangely and doing things they wouldn’t normally
  • they’ve thrown up
  • they have a glazed look in their eyes
  • they can’t walk straight and keep bumping into people and objects
  • they’ve passed out.

What can you do to help?

Look out for each other when you go out. If you think your friend has had too much to drink there’s a number of things you can do to help:

  • Stay with your friend and make sure they’re OK
  • Quietly let your friend know they might have drunk too much, and suggest they stop, or else slow down, and to drink some water and eat something. Sometimes the easiest way to encourage your friend to slow down is to get the group to go for something to eat – that way you’re getting your friend to take time out from drinking without having to confront them.
  • Make sure your friend gets home okay – for example, by either getting them into a taxi, taking them home (by car, public transport or by foot), or taking them back to your place.
  • If you can, let someone in their house know they’ve had a little too much to drink and need to have an eye kept on them, or else keep an eye on them yourself.
  • If your friend loses consciousness, it is important to get help straight away and call an ambulance. In such an emergency
    ****In Ireland, dial 999 or 112
    ****In the United States dial 911
  • If your friend passes out, it’s important to put them in the “recovery position” (also called the Bacchus Maneuver) to reduce the risk of aspirating (breathing in vomit). To place someone in the position do the following:

  1. Lay the person on their back
  2. Place the arm closest to you in an “L” position
  3. Place the other arm across their body and under their chin
  4. Take the persons leg that is furthest away from you, bending it, and gently pulling the person onto their side
  5. Ensure their chin is slightly raise so they are breathing okay
  6. Make sure the person can’t roll forwards or backwards

Later on

Friends are meant to help each other out, but being the person who has to look after everyone else on an ongoing basis isn’t much fun. A bit later on you might want to tell your friend about how worried you were when you had to look after them, and talk about ways to drink without it affecting your nights in a negative way.

More Information

For more information about the effects of alcohol, and alcohol related issues, check out the following articles…

CDC: April is Alcohol Awareness Month

NADD: For Youth – College and Underage Drinking

Screening for Mental Health: April 5th is National Alcohol Screening Day

NIDA: Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know what to ask

Addiction Recovery Basics: 10 Warning signs and symptoms of substance abuse

NIAAA: Alcohol Screening and Brief Intervention for Youth – A practitioner’s guide

Nicole Paulie is a Counselling Psychologist, and co-author of “How to be Happy and Healthy – The seven natural elements of mental health.” She provides therapy in the Dublin city area. Contact us to learn more or to book an appointment.

Alcohol Awareness Month 2012: How to help a drunk friend
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