8 Tips to Handle Someone Who Has Had Too Much

Many of us have found ourselves in situations where the person or people we’re with have had too much to drink or consumed too much of another substance (read about how marijuana affects driving: How High is Too High to Drive?). You may even be concerned about a stranger who is visibly impaired.


There are things you should keep in mind when dealing with someone who is intoxicated. People who are intoxicated are at increased risk of health emergencies, sexual assault, physical violence, impaired driving, and other dangers due to poor decision-making. They may also be a danger to others, if they are aggressive or violent. Here’s what you can do to help someone who has had too much.

a group of four young people drink shots at a bar; the photo is blurry with streaks of light, suggesting a nightclub environment.]

How to Tell if Someone is Drunk or High

 First, it’s helpful to know what to look for to determine whether someone is
intoxicated. You may easily spot behavioral changes in a friend or family
member – especially if you know what and how much they have consumed – but what
about a stranger or acquaintance?


Signs someone is impaired (alcohol consumption):

     Difficulty speaking, slurring speech

     Lowered inhibitions –speaking loudly, acting strangely or inappropriately

     Loss of coordination –falling over, running into things, trouble walking


     Glazed eyes

     “Passed out” (loss of consciousness)


Signs someone is impaired (drug use):

     Severe mood swings and rapid behavioral changes

     Red or watery eyes

     Dilated pupils

     Trouble staying awake/nodding off

     Bloody nose (from snorting)

     Slurring words or speaking too much or too quickly

     Lack of coordination

     Unusual behaviors

     Shaking, sweaty hands

     Discolored or singed fingertips (from smoking crack cocaine)

     Clenching teeth, lip smacking, or twisting jaw


No one symptom is enough to assume someone is impaired. Look for combinations of
symptoms and use your best judgment. Note that some mental and physical
disabilities can mimic the effects of drugs or alcohol.


Two young women dance side-by-side; one is holding a glass of champagne.]

Stay With Them

 If you’re concerned about someone you know, the most important thing to do is stay with them. This way, you will be able to monitor them for medical emergencies, note changes in mood or behavior, and help prevent dangerous situations. If you cannot stay with your friend or family member, recruiting someone they or you know is the second-best option.


Be Non-Confrontational

 People who have used drugs or who have had too much to drink can be belligerent or hostile. Think about what you will say before confronting someone about how much they have had to drink, or what they have used. Approach the person with a non-aggressive stance, hands open and empty, in a friendly, non-authoritative manner.


Focus on how you feel, and avoid placing blame. Show concern for their well-being, rather than judgment. If their attention starts to drift or they get defensive, try engaging them in a casual topic until they are calm and/or re-focused. If a stranger becomes angry or combative, leave them alone and call law enforcement.


Three young men sit on a couch holding video game controllers; the table in front of them is covered in candy, chips, and popcorn, as well as red SOLO cups and beer bottles.]

Suggest Alternatives or Distractions

 Offer choices rather than making demands. Ask your friend if they want a drink, and bring something non-alcoholic. Suggest they try some of the delicious [insert party food here]. It is important to keep people who have overconsumed alcohol or drugs hydrated, but watch for the tendency to dangerously over-hydrate (water intoxication) caused by certain club drugs like MDMA.


To diffuse a conflict or stop the person from consuming more, suggest a different activity altogether. For example, start up a video game at a party; say you need to leave and your car is conveniently parked outside, if they’d like a ride; or say something like, “Let’s get pizza, I’m starving.”


Ask a Friend for Help

 If you are dealing with a friend or family, and there are other mutual friends or family members nearby, recruit them for help. This can make approaching an intoxicated person less intimidating for you, and provides more support for them. It is more difficult to say “no” to three or four people than one.


If you are dealing with a stranger, see if you can find their sober friend. People are much more likely to listen to someone they know than someone they just met. However, involving other impaired persons could do more harm than good, so it’s best to leave intoxicated friends alone.


Don’t Let Them Drive

 When the party’s over or the bar is closing, most people are ready to head home. If you are concerned that someone may attempt to drive impaired, try the following:


     Explain that you don’t want your friend to drive because you care about them and don’t want them to do something they’ll regret

     Tell the stranger you’ve been talking to at the bar that they seem like a cool person, and you want to be sure they get home safe; offer to call a ride share for them

     Suggest your friend spends the night

     Offer to drive your friend or family member home. If you’re worried about confrontation, say things like: “I’m parked closer,” “The weather is bad, and I’m used to these roads,” or, “Do you want to come over? I’ll drive.”

     If you can’t stay with your friend, ask them to hand over their keys


Let Staff Know

 If you’re worried about a stranger at a bar, restaurant, or club, tell a staff member about your concerns. Bartenders and servers are trained to handle intoxicated guests and prevent drunk driving. Managers and security staff are better able to safely approach someone who is upset or combative. They can also call law enforcement if necessary.


When All Else Fails, Call Law Enforcement

 Never be afraid to call law enforcement if you are concerned about someone’s safety or the safety of people around them. It is better to have a friend arrested than injured or killed. Don’t let the person you care about make a decision that will haunt them the rest of their lives. Police are also well equipped to deal with strangers who may be a danger to themselves or others.


If you see someone you suspect is impaired get into a vehicle, or if you suspect a drunk driver on the road, don’t hesitate to call 911. Impaired driving IS an emergency.

A group of young men and women gather in a parking lot behind a car. One young man holds a red SOLO cup. Text reads, “You could save someone’s life – including your own. Make the Right Call.” The No DUI Larimer logo is in the bottom-right corner.]

Follow No DUI Larimer on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest for more ways you can combat impaired driving in our community.

Scroll to Top