How to assess an alcohol intoxicated individual

When rescuers are faced with an alcohol intoxicated individual, they do not respond to an emergency linked directly to the alcohol such as alcohol poisoning. Instead, they respond to victims of usual injuries and illnesses that are complicated by alcohol or drugs. Remember that an individual who is acutely intoxicated entails thorough assessment.

It is important to note that alcohol might conceal certain medical conditions and alcohol intoxication appears strikingly similar to a variety of life-threatening conditions. When it comes to chronic consumption of alcohol, it can cause damage to the body that leaves the individual prone to certain health conditions. Regardless whether the individual is plainly intoxicated during a single event or a chronic alcohol use, certain adjustments during assessment and treatment should be done.


Being in an intoxicated condition can affect the way consent works during first aid. In most circumstances, the victims of a medical emergency should give permission for the rescuer to help. The victim should understand the need for medical care before agreeing to any help as well as comprehend the outcome of refusing treatment.


Remember that an individual who is acutely intoxicated entails thorough assessment.

The individual should be aware of the potential side effects of any treatment given. Due to the factors involved, it is often assumed for alcohol intoxicated individuals that if they were sober and reasonable, they would accept help. Take note that this type is called as permission implied consent.

ABC during alcohol intoxication

Alcohol works as a CNS depressant and can depress the gag reflex, resulting to an airway emergency which is why ABC (airway, breathing and circulation) of first aid is vital. In addition, alcohol can also cause vertigo in some individuals which leads to nausea and vomiting. The combination of vomiting and the depressed gag reflex can lead to aspiration of emesis into the airway.

Severe intoxication can lead to depressed respiratory effort which causes the individual to breath in a shallow and slow manner. Alcohol can also cause the dilation of the blood vessels which reduces the blood pressure and blocks the ability of the body to compensate for bleeding and shock. Vasodilation will allow the blood to rush to the skin and flood the body surface where it is cooled, thus leading to hypothermia.

Not just a drunk individual

Due to the variety of effects of alcohol on the body, the actual medical issues might be overlooked.

Always assume that the signs and symptoms are due to a severe health condition and then rule out causes in turn and eventually working towards less serious conditions. Oftentimes, alcohol intoxication is the least of the individual’s problems.

Healthcare professionals should take alcohol intoxication into account during the assessment of an individual. The mere presence of alcohol can worsen the outcome. In addition, an intoxicated individual experiencing shortness of breath might be having a severe reaction due to the lack of oxygen.


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