5 Important Ways to Deal with Intoxicated Patients

December 4, 2017

Sometimes it can be difficult to deal with a patient who is sober; but, when a patient walks in who is intoxicated, this is a whole new ball game. An intoxicated patient can be loud, unruly and even prone to violence and irrationality. Despite their disposition, these patients still need your medical help. What is important is to have a well-defined strategy for dealing with these patients. The following are a few tips to help make this process go more smoothly.

Wait It Out

If a person seeking medical attention is intoxicated, but they are not seriously injured, it will sometimes be best to simply put them in a room by themselves for a while. Giving the patient time to sober up may be the safest course of action for you and everyone else involved. It is important to remember that this course of action is only reasonable if their medical needs are not life threatening. However, the simple reality is that intoxication wears off with time, and once the intoxicated state is over, you will likely be dealing with a far more rational and compliant individual.

Ask the Patient about Their Substance Abuse

Asking the patient about important information, such as how long it has been since their last drink, will play a key role in the approach to caring for an intoxicated patient. This is especially the case if you need to give the patient a particular type of medication. You would not want to treat a patient with a medication that does not mix well with alcohol. This consideration is also important when prescribing medication to chronic alcohol drinkers. While most patients might be responsible with such medications that do not mix well with alcohol use, it is a bad idea to assume that a serious alcoholic will be equally responsible when not under supervision. Of course, you will get more training in this area of expertise when taking your MSN online. Also, even if a patient looks drunk, their symptoms may not be alcohol-related.

Do Not Take It Personal

People who consume large quantities of alcohol tend to not have complete control over what they say and do. When they shout nasty things at you or do things that are inappropriate, it is best to not take their words and actions towards you personally. Just ignore them. Losing your cool around a drunk person because of this will undoubtedly provoke them to violence, and it may impact your job as a medical professional, too. It is best for you to avoid escalating these outcomes as much as possible.


A lot of medical professionals attempt to convince a fully inebriated patient that their delusions are not real, rather than listen to what is really going on inside their head. This often results in a futile endeavor that only provokes the drunken person to anger or unnecessary violence. It is better to go along with as much of their delusion as possible, provided it gets them to do precisely what you need them to do as a patient. Not only is it calming for the patient to believe that they are not the only one experiencing the delusion in question, but it can help you to better understand how they are feeling as you try to navigate getting them the medical treatment they need in the moment.

Remember, a drunken, delusional state is not a rational state, so trying to force an intoxicated person to operate on your level of sobriety and pushing them with rational logic can be dangerous. One of the things that makes binge drinking so dangerous is that it often causes drunk people to engage in injuring others. Your job is to make sure you do not accidentally become one of these victims.

When the Violence Gets Out of Hand

It is common for drunk and disorderly patients to already be worked up before you even come into their presence. As a medical care provider, it may be necessary to quickly assess the situation and get the patient into restraints before you will be able to proceed with patient care. While this may cause the patient to become angrier, it is certainly better if they are not in any position to do harm to anyone else around them. Patient care should be conducted under the safest conditions possible for everyone’s well-being.


As a medical professional providing care, it is important to remember that intoxicated patients are people too. While they can say and do a lot of things that are not appropriate, this is often the alcohol talking. Taking the time to listen and walk with them through their delusions in a calm manner, you will be able to gain insights into their needs better than if you try to offer up too much resistance to their current state. But, if a patient becomes overly violent, then more proactive patient care measures may be necessary to ensure the health and safety of everyone involved.

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