Alcohol emergency - what to do

Sometimes too much alcohol can lead to emergency situations. There are ways to tell if someone is drunk, or has alcohol poisoning. It’s important that you call an ambulance in an emergency. There are ways you can help before and after the ambulance arrives, and things you can do if alcohol emergencies keep happening.

This might help if:

  • You or someone you know drinks a lot 
  • You want to know how to help a drunk friend
  • You've had to look after your drunk friends before 
Guy passed out with beer bottle

How much is too much? 

Different people can drink different amounts. Some people have big reactions to just a small amount of alcohol, and others can drink a lot more with what seems like no negative effects. When someone has had too much to drink, you might notice that they:

  • Aren’t able to walk or talk properly
  • Are vomiting
  • Are passed out
  • Are acting strangely

If these things are happening, you should stay with the person, and try to get them to stop, or at least slow down, their drinking. Find out more about helping a drunk friend

If you need expert advice about a friend who has drunk too much, call the Poisons information centre on 13 11 26.

However, if you're still really worried or unsure about what's going on, don't hesitate to call emergency services on 000.

Alcohol emergency 

Alcohol poisoning is an emergency - it carries a really serious risk to someone’s health and will likely cause someone to:

  • Pass out and not be able to be woken
  • Vomit, shake or have seizures
  • Breathe slowly or irregularly
  • Be cold to touch, with blue or pale skin

If any of these are happening, it's an alcohol emergency and you should call 000 immediately for an ambulance. 

If you're ever worried about a friend who has drunk too much, even if they're not experiencing all of these symptoms the safest thing to do is call 000 and they'll be able to tell you what to do.

Emergency Strategies

Make sure you stay with a friend if they are in an emergency situation or if they are experiencing any of the symptoms above. When you call emergency services they'll want to know:

  • Your location, including nearby landmarks
  • Your phone number
  • The story of what happened
  • How many people are in trouble, what their condition is, and what's being done to help them so far
  • Other information that will help them know what to do

You should stay on the line until the emergency operator hangs up. Also make sure to stay with the person in trouble until the ambulance arrives. 

When the ambulance arrives

When the paramedics get there, they'll ask you questions about what your friend drank, how much, and how quickly. They will also ask if they took anything else including illicit, prescription or over the counter drugs. If you know that your friend has taken something in addition to alcohol, it’s really important that you tell the paramedics - they are only interested in helping your friend, not getting anyone in trouble. Paramedics will only call the police if there is a threat of violence to them or someone else at the scene. 

Afterwards

If you, or someone you know, keeps getting into alcohol emergency situations, it’s a good idea to do something about it. Heavy drinking is really risky and can be really harmful over a long period of time - have a look at the factsheet on binge drinking for more info. You might also find it useful to check out some tips for drinking responsibly to help get things under control. If you’re worried about a friend, have a chat to them about it.

If you’re struggling to manage or you're worried that there might be something else going on with you or your friend, have a read to see if something's not right. or have a chat to a health professional about what you can do.

What can I do now?

Last reviewed: 06 August, 2015
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