How to Deal with a Drunk Friend

Tips on Coping while Staying Safe

What starts out as a pleasant evening out with a friend can take a turn for the worse if your friend gets drunk. When one person's behavior starts to become difficult, it can seem to make sense to simply leave, but a drunk friend may be vulnerable and need help. Here are some tips of helping your drunk friend end the night safety, without getting hurt in the process.

Keep Calm

There comes a point in the evening when you realize your friend is drunk. You may not be completely sober yourself, but when you notice the signs of drunkenness, it is important to stay calm and clearheaded, and not to overreact. And while it may seem best to simply walk away, your friend actually needs your care and attention at this time. 


  • Stop drinking immediately yourself, and try to sober up by drinking a glass of water and eating a salty snack.
  • Speak clearly, gently and firmly to your friend.
  • Let your friend know you think you have both had enough to drink.
  • Stay physically present until your friend has sobered up.


Do not:

  • Get angry or criticize your friend for getting drunk, or not being able to "hold" their drink -- this may escalate into an argument or your friend may want to prove you wrong by drinking even more.
  • Mock your friend's drunkenness or act as if it is funny.
  • Reject your friend because he or she is drunk (she is highly vulnerable when intoxicated).
  • Tell your friend that he or she "deserves" anything bad that may have happened or may happen as a result of getting drunk.
  • Force her or him to eat or drink anything else.

How Much Alcohol?

Most of the time, people who get drunk recover without problems, but a small proportion may get ill with alcohol poisoning. The risk is higher if your friend's tolerance to alcohol is low. The lower the person's body weight, the less alcohol they can tolerate. 

If your friend was sober when you started drinking, make a note of how many drinks he or she has had, and what they were. Liquor contains a much higher amount of alcohol than wine, and beer contains the lowest amount. However, alcopops, fortified wines, and extra strong beers are deceptively high in alcohol.

Use the blood alcohol concentration estimate to check your friend's level of intoxication. Be aware that most people underestimate how much alcohol has been consumed, especially in home-poured drinks.

Get Medical Help if Necessary

Take your friend to the emergency room if:

  • He or she is unable to communicate clearly.
  • She or he has vomited - this is her body's first line of defense against overdose.
  • He or she is under the influence of other drugs, including prescription medication, or you think a drink may have been spiked.
  • She or he has lost consciousness - "passed out" or "blacked out" - at any point since starting drinking.
  • He or she has had a fall or sustained any other injuries.
  • There is any possibility that she or he has consumed strong alcoholic beverages, such as vodka or whiskey, in the past hour, which may continue to affect her later.
  • You are concerned about his or her mental or physical health or well-being for any other reason.

Rehydrate Carefully

Your friend may be dehydrated, particularly if she or he also consumed a lot of caffeine - contained in cola, coffee, tea, sports drinks and chocolate, or medications for weight loss. But don't rush to get him or her to drink too much water at once, which can cause other problems including vomiting. Drinking too much water can also cause water intoxication, which can be dangerous.

Instead, encourage your friend to slowly sip a glass of water and take her or him to the emergency room for treatment if she or he throws up. Your friend can be rehydrated intravenously very quickly, which will also help with intoxication. But remember, the emergency room can be a stressful environment, and there may be other cases that take priority, particularly on Saturday night.

Stay Up with Your Friend

If your friend doesn't seem to need medical treatment, it is still a good idea to stay close for an hour or so to make sure he or she is sobering up. This reduces the risk of your friend vomiting in his or her sleep, which is a risk for asphyxiation. If your friend seems to be getting more, rather than less, drunk as time passes, take him or her to the emergency room.

Put Your Friend in the Recovery Position

If your friend is too drunk to stand up or you're unable to take him or her to the emergency room, put him or her in the recovery position and call an ambulance. If your friend has sobered up and seems okay to go to bed, encourage her or him to sleep in the recovery position. That way, if your friend does vomit during the night, she or he is less likely to inhale the vomit.

Talk it Over the Next Day

Some of the reasons people develop alcohol problems are related to cultural and peer pressure to drink until you are drunk. Your friend may forget the most difficult parts of the night, and may even recall the fun you had earlier on, not realizing the danger involved, or the difficulty for you in handling their drunkenness. 

After your friend has had a chance to sober up, get a good sleep and recover from her or his hangover, talk to your friend in a non-judgmental way about the events that lead up to her or him getting drunk. It may be that your friend doesn't know how else to enjoy your time together, or that your friend has some other emotional difficulty - for example, social anxiety, depression or unresolved trauma

Encourage your friend to get help for these problems, if they are an issue. Your family doctor is a good place to start for treatment and other resources. Take this event as a warning sign that problems need to be addressed now, rather than later when they are more difficult to resolve if alcohol becomes a way of coping for your friend

Drinking and Friendships

Coping with a drunk friend may be difficult, but it can potentially save your friend from illness, assault, or an accident. Once you have got through this situation, think about other ways to enjoy time with friends, that don't involve alcohol or drugs.

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