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What to do When You Are

Concerned About a Friend or Loved One

Sometimes it is hard to know what to do if you suspect or know if a friend or loved one is experiencing problems with alcohol or other drugs. This suggestion list identifies some ways that you can help.

  1. Allow the person to accept responsibility for his/her own behavior.
  2. Encourage the person to participate in leisure-time activities that don't include drinking/drugs.
  3. Learn the basic facts about drug/alcohol abuse and dependency so you can devise a plan of action to confront the person you are concerned about.
  4. Understand the feelings of anger, depression, and frustration that often accompany being closely involved with a problem user. Speak to a professional at Student Health and Counseling Center for support and suggestions on how to deal with the person who is abusing alcohol or other drugs.
  5. Be patient. Getting a person to examine his/her drinking or drug use can be a slow process. Breaking through denial is a difficult first step.
  6. This process is difficult for you, too. Be sure to get the support you need.
  7. Communicate your concerns to the person in a caring, non-judgmental way. Your message should be "I care about you as a person." Some suggestions:
    • I'm learning about chemical dependency, and I'm worried about your drinking/drug use.
    • I can't ignore this because, you're my friend, and you're important to me.
    • It scares me when you drink or use drugs and you can't remember things you've said or done.
    • Last week you drove home drunk, and that scared me.

Caring for an Intoxicated Person

If someone has passed out, DO

  1. Determine from friends or witnesses approximately how much and what kind of alcohol was consumed and how fast it was consumed. (Rapid drinking of large amounts of alcohol can be fatal.)
  2. Determine if any drugs or medications were taken and how much.
  3. Determine if the person is breathing normally or if he/she has sustained any injuries from falling.
  4. If possible, determine from friends or personal identification if the person has any pre-existing medical condition such as diabetes or epilepsy.
  5. Taking into account the above considerations, determine whether the person is in a life-threatening crisis. If so (or even if you are in doubt), get help immediately by calling 911.
  6. If medical attention is not necessary, keep the person comfortable and allow him/her to sleep. Make sure the person is lying on his/her side, head resting on the arm. Otherwise, he/she may aspirate his/her own vomit.

If someone has passed out, DO NOT

  1. Try to wake up or move the person unless necessary.
  2. Put the person to bed in a loft or bed where there may be a risk of injury from falling.

If the person is awake, DO

  1. Keep the person calm and comfortable without reinforcing drinking behavior.
  2. Do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of the person and those around him/her.
  3. Remain calm and objective, but show your concern.
  4. Try to convince the person that he/she has had enough to drink, and perhaps offer a soft drink or a small bite to eat.

If the person is awake, DON'T

  1. Don't give the person any drugs (including aspirin) to sober him/her up. (Drugs won't expedite sobering up; drug interaction with alcohol may be severe.)
  2. Don't give coffee, tea, or liquid stimulants to sober a person up. (You will likely end up with a wide-awake drunk.)
  3. Don't give a person a cold shower; the shock may cause the person to pass out, perhaps causing injuries.
  4. Don't try to walk, run or exercise with an intoxicated person.
  5. Don't keep the person awake.
  6. Don't restrain the person (unless necessary for protection).
  7. Don't try to counsel, argue, or reason with the individual.
  8. Don't make excuses for the person's behavior, clean up the mess or give social reinforcement for drinking. Let the person be held accountable for his/her own behavior.