Treatment for alcohol poisoning 

Someone who has alcohol poisoning won't be able to help themselves.

When you're drinking with a group of people, it's important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of alcohol poisoning and know what to do when someone has had too much to drink.

Following the advice below could save someone’s life.

What you should do

If you suspect someone has alcohol poisoning, dial 999 and ask for an ambulance. While you're waiting:

  • try to keep them sitting up and awake
  • give them water if they can drink it
  • if they've passed out, lie them on their side in the recovery position and check they're breathing properly
  • keep them warm
  • stay with them and monitor their symptoms

What you shouldn't do

There are many myths about how to 'sober someone up' when they're drunk, most of which are wrong and can even be dangerous. You shouldn't:

  • give them coffee because it will dehydrate them more 
  • leave them alone or lying on their back, even if they're asleep
  • walk them around
  • put them under a cold shower
  • let them drink any more alcohol

Hospital treatment

Someone with alcohol poisoning needs to be taken to hospital.

Medical staff at hospital will closely monitor the person until all the alcohol has left their system. They may also need to:

  • insert a tube into their mouth and windpipe (intubation) to open the airway, remove any blockages and help with breathing
  • fit an intravenous drip, which goes directly into a vein, to top up their water, blood sugar and vitamin levels
  • fit a catheter (thin tube) to their bladder to drain urine straight into a bag so they don't wet themselves
  • pump their stomach by flushing fluids through a tube inserted into their nose or mouth

Page last reviewed: 23/06/2014

Next review due: 23/06/2016