My friend passed out drunk, what do I do?

Most of us have, at some point in our lives, had to take care of a friend who has had too much to drink. In most cases, giving the friend several glasses of water and having them lie down is good enough. However, there are times when “good enough” … isn’t.

If a friend is noticeably intoxicated — slurring words at an increasingly high volume, tripping over nonexistent items and having deep conversations with inanimate objects, perhaps — the first step is to get them to stop drinking. This is easier said than done, as drunken people tend to get very attached to their beverages. For some, this is the extent of assistance you need to provide. But if your friend starts to get that frantic look on their face and stumbles to the nearest receptacle (potted plant, toilet, you name it), be prepared to spend the remainder of your evening with them.

There are several things to keep in mind when dealing with intoxicated friends. Much of this has been adapted from


IS VOMITING: Try to keep the person sitting up. If they insist on lying down, make sure they lie on their side. Do not leave them alone.

HAS PASSED OUT: Try to wake them. If you are unable to, put the person on their side and call 911 and then Public Safety.

IS HAVING DIFFICULTY BREATHING: If the person is not breathing normally or if they stop breathing, call 911. Anything under 12 breaths a minute is considered abnormal and points to alcohol poisoning.

IS INJURED: Call 911 for an ambulance, or take your friend to the emergency room yourself. They might not feel pain and tell you they do not require medical assistance. Do not believe them. Unsurprisingly, drunk people don’t always know what’s best for them. Insist that they see a doctor.

HAS A FEVER, CHILLS, OR COLD/PALE/BLUISH SKIN, OR IF THEY ARE VERY SWEATY: Call a doctor, describe these symptoms, and get advice on what to do. This can be done anonymously.

IS BECOMING VIOLENT: Notify the party’s host or a bouncer at the bar. Call the police if the behavior is especially volatile.

SEEMS PARANOID, CONFUSED, DISORIENTED OR UNBALANCED: Take them home and make sure they don’t drink any more alcohol. Try to keep your friend awake and calm.


  • ask them to drink lots of water
  • have them sit down
  • if they want to go to sleep, have them lie on their side
  • take their keys
  • have them eat bread if they can feed themselves
  • stay with them


  • let them fall asleep on their stomach or back
  • force them to drink or eat
  • be bossy, argue
  • grab their drink away
  • leave them


  • excessive vomiting
  • passed out and will not wake up
  • skin is bluish, pale and/or sweating
  • seizures
  • irregular or slow breathing

[information from]


  • I am drunk, and I call for assistance for my friend?
  • I am underage and drunk, calling for assistance for my friend?
  • I am under the influence of drugs, calling for assistance for my friend?

No. If you are calling because you are worried about the safety of your friend, no formal judicial record will be reported in your name. You might have to have a meeting with a counselor to discuss the event, but your record will not be charged. Your friend, on the other hand, is subject to standard consequences.

“The student caller does not usually get (documented), but the drunk student definitely gets (documented), and depending on his/her judicial history, the consequences differ. Also, RAs (can be) lenient when someone asks for help, but we are also supposed to enforce the rules and regulations of Guilford College, so if it is needed for us to report an incident, we have to do so.”

–Delphine Uwase, Resident Advisor in Mary Hobbs


“In cases where students report incidents of abusive use of alcohol to emergency or residence life staff, while under the influence themselves, an amnesty will be granted to the reporting students as long as there is not evidence of abusive use of alcohol. The students making the report will be required to check in with a Campus Life staff member and may be required to meet with someone from the counseling staff, but will retain no formal judicial record with the college. First Year students may be required to notify their parents depending on the severity of the incident. Students for whom the report is made will go through the judicial process. As for the student who goes through the judicial process, each outcome is unique and consequences are directly related to the incident’s details. The sanctions are determined through a CAP hearing (the Guilford community’s judicial process).”

–Guilford College Student Handbook, 2011-12


Myth: “People pass out from drinking all the time. It’s nothing to worry about. I’ll cause more problems by trying to get help.”

False. When a person passes out from drinking, it’s because their body is physically incapable of tolerating the amount of alcohol put into their system. Alcohol is a depressant that slows down your heart rate, lowers your blood pressure and slows your breathing. Once your brain has been depressed enough by the alcohol, you pass out. The amount of alcohol it takes to make you pass out is dangerously close to the amount of alcohol it takes to make you dead, so yes — worry about it. A judicial penalty is a lot better than death.