Emergency advice

Alcohol poisoning:

  1. Keep them warm and check for injuries.
  2. Place in the recovery position.
  3. Monitor level of response, if worried call 999.

What is alcohol poisoning?

When someone drinks too much alcohol, they can suffer from alcohol poisoning. Drinking too much alcohol depresses the nervous system from working properly, particularly the brain. It can severely weaken mental and physical functions, and the person may become unresponsive.

Signs and symptoms

If someone has alcohol poisoning, look for:

  • a strong smell of alcohol - you may see empty bottles or cans .
  • reduced level of response. 
  • their face may be moist and reddened.  
  • deep, noisy breathing. 
  • full, bounding pulse.

Later, you may find: 

  • shallow breathing. 
  • a weak, rapid pulse. 
  • dilated pupils that react poorly to light.
  • unresponsiveness.

What to do

  1. If you think someone has alcohol poisoning, reassure them and cover them with a coat or blanket to keep them warm.

  2. Check the casualty for any injuries, especially head injuries, or signs of any other medical conditions.

    • Be aware that the smell of alcohol on an unresponsive casualty could disguise other conditions such as a head injury, stroke, heart attack and hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar) which need appropriate treatment.
    • If you’re unsure about how serious their condition is, call 999 or 112 for emergency help.
    • If you suspect a head injury, they should be seen by a Healthcare professional.
    • If there is evidence of other injuries and the casualty is conscious and not vomiting, you can offer sips of water.
  3. Place the casualty in the recovery position so that they do not choke on any vomit.

    • Do not try to make them sick.
  4. Monitor their level of response until they recover or until a responsible adult can take over care.

    • If worried, call 999 or 112 for emergency help.
    • If they become unresponsive at any point, open their airway, check their breathing and prepare to give CPR.

Our training courses:

First aid courses

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Use the primary survey to quickly assess the situation and check the casualty for injuries or conditions that could be immediately life threatening. Find out what to do.

How to put an adult in the recovery position

It’s safe to place someone in the recovery position who is not responding to you but is breathing normally. Learn what to do.

St John Ambulance volunteers providing support