Student Wellness Services

Student Wellness Services

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Assisting an Intoxicated Individual

How to approach an intoxicated individual

There are several misconceptions out there over what to do when a friend or even someone you don’t know is really drink. Here are some suggestions:

  • Remain calm; try to be friendly and non-judgemental
  • Tell the person you are concerned about his or her safety
  • Keep your distance; ensure the person knows what you are going to do before you approach or touch him or her
  • Stand to the side of him or her when you speak to ensure the person feels less threatened
  • If possible, try to find a quiet area to talk to the person to avoid embarrassment
  • Try to find a friend of the person who is relatively sober; sometimes people will listen more to a familiar voice
  • If the person starts to become a danger to him or herself and/or other people, and you can’t calm the person down, don’t hesitate to call the police


  • Walk, exercise, or shower a drunk person
  • Laugh at or argue with someone who’s intoxicated or has been doing drugs
  • Try to physically restrain a drunk person
  • Give liquids or drugs to sober someone up; only time can do that


How to assess an intoxicated individual


  • Take a deep breath and relax. Avoid transferring any anxiety you're feeling to the person you are assisting.

Assess the situation   

  •  Is the person conscious or passed out?
  • Are they breathing?
  • How much have they had to drink?
  • Can they walk?
  • Do they make sense when they talk?

Be aware of dangers

  • Choking - either on their own vomit, or on food, drink or medication
  • Injury - due to impaired coordination and judgement, a person may fall or take risks that they would not when sober
  • Unconsciousness or respiratory problems - as blood alcohol levels rise, heart rate and breathing may become depressed resulting in cardiac or respiratory arrest.
  • Get help right away

Buddy up

  • Work with a buddy if you can quickly locate another sober individual.

You are key

  •  Knowing what to do can help to prevent alcohol-related injuries or death, but you must be sober and alert to be effective.


How to place someone in the recovery position

Assumes that person is lying on their back, and that you approach them from the side of their body.  

the recovery position

A picture of the recovery position (PDF 644 KB)


Raise the arm closest to you so that it is lying on the ground, pointing over their head.

Straighten the leg closest to you.

Bend the other leg at the knee so that it forms a triangle with the knee in the air and the foot on the ground.

Bring the other arm across and let it rest on their chest.


Roll the person towards you using the knee pointing in the air as leverage.

Guard the head to ensure it does not flop around too much. At this point, the head should be resting on the arm that you placed pointing over their head.

Finally: Tilt the head back to maintain the airway.

Tuck the hand of the arm you placed across the person's chest under their cheek to maintain the tilt.