How to Relate to Someone Who’s Intoxicated

How to Relate to Someone Who's Intoxicated | Transcend Recovery Community

If you are a friend or family member of someone who has an addiction, there is a possibility that you might encounter him or her drunk or high. It might even be rare that you see your loved one sober. You might live together or work together and he or she is often intoxicated in your presence. What’s worse, he or she might be dangerous, threatening to harm himself or others.

As you can imagine, there are some tactics to keep in mind when you approach someone who is intoxicated. Likely, he or she is going to be unable to receive any words of wisdom you have. Instead, use this time to make a connection, show you care, and take any necessary steps to keep your loved one safe.

Here are some tips regarding how to relate to your friend or family member while he or she is under the influence.

  • Approach in a way so that you don’t re-traumatize that person.
  • Approach with care.
  • Respect personal space.
  • Use gentle, soft voice and body language.
  • Make clear, brief statements.
  • Focus on the here and now.
  • Show respect and do not put the person down with judgments or criticism.
  • Use humor, if you think that will help to create a connection. But obviously don’t use humor at the person’s expense.
  • Stay calm and avoid getting into a confrontation.
  • Empathize with the person.
  • Work to disarm fear.
  • Calm the fight or flight response in the person you’re talking to.
  • Give the person time to process.
  • Repeat yourself as often as necessary.
  • Check that he or she is in physical health and is safe.
  • Leave the situation if the person becomes agitated or behaviorally inappropriate.
  • Validate the person when warranted.
  • Offer concrete help if he or she asks, such as places to seek drug treatment, a safe place to rest, a safe place to sleep, and places to seek medical attention.
  • If a person is intoxicated and also suicidal, do not leave him or her alone. Instead, call 911 to ensure safety and professional support.

It’s not always easy to encounter someone who is under the influence of substances. However, often just our presence is enough. With loving and gentle companionship, whether or not someone is drunk, he or she can feel safe knowing that you are there.

Furthermore, by doing so, you demonstrate that you accept your friend and as you consistently show your acceptance of him or her , you might be able to support your friend of family member in taking the steps towards sobriety.

If you’re concerned about the dangerous drinking and drugging lifestyle of a friend and you’d like to support him or her in getting drug abuse treatment, there are some helpful steps you can take. It’s hard, for example, if you’ve been to the hospital three or four times because your friend is in there for alcohol poisoning. You probably know that if your friend is going to live, the drinking and drug use has got to stop. And you might know that he or she needs substance abuse treatment, but your friend might not be willing to accept it quite yet.

However, your presence and friendship can make a huge difference. Eventually and carefully, you might be able to employ the suggestions offered by Dr. Michael Pantalon, author of Instant Influence: How to Get Anyone To Do Anything – Fast.  In his book, Pantalon suggests to talk to your friend in a way that respects his or her inner authority.

Somewhere it is your friend’s inner authority that knows what to do. He or she might need time or assistance with taking steps towards health, but tapping into and exploring the inner knowing that your friend has can be a beginning.


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