Gordie Center

for Substance Abuse Prevention

How to Help a Friend

Recognizing Alcohol or Other Drug Problems

Problem drinking is defined not so much by the amount and/or frequency of drinking, but in the existence of negative consequences in any aspect of one’s life.

Helping a Problem Drinker

If you’re worried about someone’s drinking don’t be afraid to bring it up.Find out more about what to say as well as how to handle denial and what to do if nothing happens. 

Download a PDF of the "How to Help a Friend with an Alcohol or Other Drug Problelm."

Bacchus Manuever

Bacchus Maneuver
Click to enlarge

First Aid for Intoxicated People

If a person is drunk and belligerent, it is best not to be verbally confrontational or aggressive in any way. Joking, kidding, bargaining, and enlisting the help of friends are the best way to deal with a belligerent person. It is important to speak clearly and calmly and to try to coax the person to a quiet place where he/she can calm down. If repeated attempts to calm the person down are unsuccessful, it is best to enlist outside intervention

REMEMBER: An intoxicated person is not rational. The alcohol has affected judgment, and you cannot reason with him/her. The person may become violent and uncooperative and you may need to prevent harm to yourself or others. If the person is being destructive and uncontrollable, call for assistance, up to and including the police. If a person is very intoxicated and staggering, vomiting or passing/passed out, he/she may need emergency care. Try to get the individual in bed and follow the guidelines listed below.

Guidelines for Immediate Care

  • BAC can continue to rise after one stops drinking. Never leave a person alone to sleep it off.
  • Protect the person from injury.
  • Keep the person still and comfortable.
  • Stay with a drunk person who is vomiting.
  • If the person is in bed, make sure the person is on his/her side—not back. Make sure the airway remain open in case of vomiting. If possible, prop something behind the person to ensure he/she doesn’t roll over. See the Bacchus Maneuver.
  • Speak in a clear, firm, soothing voice. Comfort and reassure the person.
    If the person is unresponsive, get emergency medical care immediately.
  • If the situation has the potential to get worse overnight or you feel uncomfortable handling it, call 911.