How to Deal With a Drunk Child

It's every parent's nightmare that one day your teenager will get drunk and you will have to handle it. While this is an emotional experience for parents, it is important that you support your child through the situation. And this is definitely a time when there are good and bad ways to respond as a parent. Here's how to deal with a drunk child or teenager, and get it right.

1

Stay Calm

Models pose as father and teenage son

Bruce Ayres / Getty Images

It can be frightening, annoying and angering to see your child drunk for the first time. But it is important to stay calm and in control of yourself while you are dealing with him. Your child is in a vulnerable state, both physically and mentally, and despite the fact that you may be angry with him, he needs your care and concern at this time.

Do

  • Speak clearly, calmly, and gently

  • Take responsibility for your child's health

  • Stay with him until he's sober

Do Not

  • Yell, criticize, argue, or threaten

  • Laugh at, make fun of, or express amusement

  • Punish him while he's intoxicated

  • Touch him more than necessary

  • Force him to eat or drink

2

Find Out How Much Your Child Had to Drink

Young people can appear very drunk after consuming relatively small amounts of alcohol because they have very low tolerance for alcohol. However, if your child has drunk more alcohol than his body can handle, he may be at risk of alcohol poisoning.

If he is able to speak, try to find out how much he has drunk in a way that will not encourage him to lie about the amount. You can also check with his companions or the party or drinking establishment where he was drinking to get an idea of how much he has consumed. Use the blood alcohol concentration estimate for men (for boys) or women (for girls) to evaluate your child's level of intoxication. Be aware that most people underestimate how much alcohol they have consumed, especially in home-poured drinks.

3

Get Medical Help If Necessary

Take your child to the emergency room if:

  • He is unable to speak or is incoherent.
  • He has vomited. This is his body's first line of defense against overdose.
  • He has—or you think he may have—taken other drugs, including prescription medication.
  • He has lost consciousness (passed out or blacked out) at any point since starting drinking.
  • He has had a fall or sustained any other injuries.
  • He or someone else indicates that he may have consumed strong alcoholic beverages, such as vodka or whiskey, in the past hour; he may become more intoxicated later.
  • You are concerned about your child's health or well-being for any other reason.
4

Call the Police If Violence Erupts

The risk of family violence increases with alcohol use. If your child becomes threatening or violent to people or property, call the police immediately. This kind of situation can easily escalate into a tragedy. The police are well-trained in diffusing and managing these situations.

The same is true if the other parent, or another person present, becomes violent toward your child. Parents can often get very angry when their teenage kids are drunk, and you don't want to get caught in the cross-fire by trying to break them up. Remember, you can work out the details of how you move forward as a family tomorrow when everyone is sober.

5

Rehydrate

Encourage your child to slowly sip water to rehydrate, but be prepared that sometimes the process of drinking more (even water) can induce vomiting in a drunk youth. If he vomits, take him to the emergency room for treatment.

6

Keep Your Child Awake

One of the greatest risks is asphyxiation from vomiting during sleep when drunk. It may seem counter-intuitive to keep your child awake when he is drunk, but it is the safest thing to do. Your child may become more intoxicated from the alcohol already in his system. If he appears to be becoming more intoxicated as time goes on, take him to the emergency room. Ideally, you want to see him sobering up before letting him "sleep it off."

7

Put Your Child in the Recovery Position

If your son is too drunk to stand up or you're unable to take him to the emergency room, put him in the recovery position (on his side) and call an ambulance. If he has sobered up and you feel he will be safe to go to bed, make sure he goes to sleep in the recovery position. That way, if he vomits during the night, he is less likely to inhale the vomit.

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