How to Tell If Someone Is Drunk

Knowing the Signs When Someone Is Drunk

Alcohol is commonly used as a means to relax and loosen up after a long day or a tiring week. Many adults report that they drink frequently in social situations and often when they feel the need to unwind.

Alcohol consumption in moderation isn’t always problematic for some people but for others, this substance can increase the likelihood of severe ramifications like dependence and addiction.

Sometimes the signs of drinking can be tough to discern, which is why we’ve written our guide to ‘How to Tell if Someone is Drunk.’

Keep reading to learn the telltale signs of alcohol intoxication now!

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Recognizing the Signs of Excessive Alcohol Consumption

It’s important to understand the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse and dependency problems versus regular consumption in social situations. This distinction isn’t always easy, but it’s oftentimes necessary if your friend or loved one is potentially dealing with an alcohol problem.

If your suspicions are correct, you could be making a major difference in their life by bringing your concerns to their attention. When you’re looking at alcohol consumption at the moment, there are noticeable differences in one’s behavior and clear signs that indicate their level of intoxication.

Below, we define the common signs of intoxication and how to tell if your friend or loved one is struggling with a potential dependency problem.

How To Tell if Someone Is Drunk: Telltale Signs of Intoxication

The Signs That Someone Is Drunk

Alcohol consumption affects each person differently, as there are many factors that influence how quickly one can become intoxicated. These factors include age, weight, gender, food in the system, etc. However, even with these factors to consider, there is still a major difference between a casual glass of wine at dinner and several mixed drinks at the bar.

Both will affect the consumer differently, as visible behavior and signs of impairment will vary. A good thing to remember is the higher one’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is, the more likely they are to show physical signs of impairment. More often than not, it’s plainly obvious when someone has consumed one too many drinks.

However, many individuals who struggle with alcohol addiction have learned how to adeptly hide their intoxication and any sign of overuse. If you’re having trouble figuring out if your loved one is drunk, the following signs can help you make a determination. Individuals who are intoxicated usually display the following symptoms:

1. A Flushed Face

One of the early and most common signs of inebriation is a flushed face. If you notice that your friend or loved one is unusually flush, there is a high chance that they have had too much to drink.

This symptom is also known as ‘an alcohol flush reaction and is increasingly common after someone has had a few glasses of wine. However, an alcohol flush reaction can just as easily occur after drinking any variety of alcohol.

This peculiar phenomenon occurs because, when a person drinks alcohol, the blood capillaries in the face become dilated. This is usually a result of one’s inability to digest alcohol completely. Even more than an ETG test, this can be a clear indicator of intoxication for some people.

People who develop a flushed face while drinking could have a deficiency in their ALDH2 gene — aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 gene. ALDH2 is an enzyme in your body that enables your liver to break down a chemical compound found in alcohol called acetaldehyde.

When this compound can’t be broken down and metabolized properly, it’ll start to cause symptoms like a flushed, red face after consuming alcohol. However, it’s important to remember that not all symptoms of face flushing derive specifically from alcohol abuse.

A flushed face can also be a result of other factors like rosacea or linger after a session of intense exercise, and even worsen the genetic conditions that can lead to what is often incorrectly termed an ‘alcoholic nose.’ Luckily, there are many other signs of alcohol intoxication that can help you make a better determination.

2. Their Speech is Slurred

Signs of drunk man

If you’re having trouble telling if your friend or loved one has had too much alcohol, another sign to be on the lookout for is slurred speech. If you notice that they are having trouble pronouncing works coherently and their speech seems unnaturally elongated, they could very well be inebriated. A tendency to speak at greater length, and reveal things that otherwise might have been held in, has led some to believe the expression that ‘drunk words are sober thoughts‘ but this varies by individual and is far from a universal truth.

Even with mild impairments from alcohol use, this symptom is so common and even stereotypical that many law enforcement officials and medical professionals use it as a clear indication of an intoxicated person. Slurred speech occurs from the effects of alcohol slowing down one’s brain and body activity.

When alcohol enters the bloodstream, its toxins are primarily sent to the brain, where it interacts with the brain’s neurons — causing an abundance of side effects, including slurred speech. Due to the slowing effect the alcohol has on the brain, it prevents it from communicating with the rest of the body at a normal and effective rate. The brain has trouble processing words, which inevitably leads to slurred, incoherent speech.

Poor coordination, difficulty standing, blurry vision, drowsiness, and slower response times are all also symptoms associated with mild intoxication, as well as more severe intoxication. If you notice that your loved one’s speech is slurred more often than not, this could be a significant indicator of chronic alcohol abuse.

In the worst of cases, it can be a sign of alcoholic brain damage due to heavy or incessant drinking throughout the years. However, if your loved one’s speech slurring is relatively new, chances are it’s a direct effect of intoxication.

3. Increased Social Interaction

Increased Social Interaction

With repeated use and abuse, alcohol can greatly affect one’s behaviors and actions. For example, the normally quiet and shy person in the room might turn into the life of the party after having a few drinks. Or, the guy who’s usually rude and standoffish has a flirtatious side after one or two beers.

Alcohol has a unique way of making consumers more empathetic, trusting, generous, and even adventurous. Often, you’ll hear people refer to this as ‘liquid courage’ because of the way alcohol enables individuals to loosen up and be more outgoing than they normally are sober.

While there is nothing wrong with being more socially interactive, relying on alcohol to give you that social boost will become a problem over time. Alcohol affects the brain by boosting the levels of dopamine — the brain’s reward chemical — and creating the sensation of euphoria.

After a few drinks, people tend to have lowered inhibitions and feel less anxious, more confident, and more outgoing. However, even with these perceived beneficial effects as alcohol enables the brain to exude euphoria throughout the body, it also inhibits its ability to control fear.

Things that once seemed a little scary or potentially life-threatening no longer seem so bad. So while one’s social interaction increases, their ability to process risk decreases and one will have a significantly increased pain threshold — leaving room for many drunken mistakes and potential disasters, such as drunk driving, risky sex, drunk texting, and an increased likelihood to experience other drugs.

It’s important to note that it may be more tricky to measure intoxication if your friend or loved one is naturally an outgoing person. But for those who are notably quieter, it’ll be pretty obvious that they have been drinking.

In fact, it may even seem like you’re with a completely different person. However, if your friend has a more social nature to begin with, your best way of determining their sobriety is through conversation.

That’s when you look for other signs of intoxication, like slurred speech. You can also gauge how they address certain conversation topics to determine their level of intoxication. For example, if they normally try to steer clear of controversial topics but now are aggressively sharing thoughts about religion, politics, or other sensitive subjects, there’s a good chance they are drunk.

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4. They Show a Lack of Emotional Regulation

While alcohol consumption can increase one’s social interactions, it also can inhibit one’s ability to regulate their emotions. Often, these side effects go hand-in-hand because as the night goes on and more drinks are consumed, one’s fun and energetic social side can quickly turn aggressive.

Drunken aggression occurs more commonly in men, but that doesn’t mean it completely excludes women as well. It really depends on the person, because — as we mentioned before — alcohol has a different effect on every person. Emotional outbursts, significant loss of control, and mood swings are all associated with excessive drinking.

Regardless, alcohol is proven to increase aggression, especially in cases of binge drinking, and with lower inhibitions, it won’t take much to lose control of their emotional regulation. This is a very important sign to look out for, as anger, hostility, or increased melancholy are clear indicators that your friend or loved one is too drunk and needs to be taken home before matters get worse.

So, if you’re looking for signs of public intoxication, ask yourself this:

  • Is your friend getting angry or aggressive over something that’s seeming of little consequence?
  • Did their mood seem to change rapidly?
  • Is he or she oddly quiet and no longer showing signs of sociability?
  • Are they easily picking fights with people?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these, then your suspicions are probably correct. All of these factors are a cause for concern and more than likely suggest that your friend is struggling with emotional regulation due to excessive alcohol consumption.

5. They Are Physically Imbalanced

Physically Imbalanced

Another obvious sign of drunkenness is physical imbalance. If you notice someone stumbling around, tripping a lot, or unable to walk in a straight line, chances are they had one too many to drink that night.

As mentioned before, alcohol takes a massive toll on the brain and body by completely slowing them down. When the liver is unable to process excess amounts of alcohol, the remaining toxins are left to travel throughout the bloodstream and to the brain — causing inebriation. As a result, parts of the brain that control things like one’s coordination are compromised.

When one is struggling to walk normally and is visibly imbalanced, this is because the cerebellum — the part of the brain that regulates coordination — is overly sensitive to the toxins of alcohol, even if this degree of intoxication falls shy of actual alcohol poisoning.

Although the brain is still sending signals to the cerebellum, it’s unable to process them efficiently, resulting in tripping, feet dragging, and stumbling. These same effects can happen when a person is abusing drugs, as well.

6. They Are Extremely Dehydrated

Alcohol is notorious for depleting the body of hydrating fluids. Not to mention, it’s uncommon to find someone actively drinking water while they are intoxicated. Alcohol is a diuretic and causes the body to remove essential fluids from your blood via your renal system — your kidneys and bladder — at a faster-than-normal rate. If a person doesn’t replenish the body with hydrating fluids like water, they will risk becoming dehydrated.

Unfortunately, water tends to be a natural deterrent to anyone who’s inebriated, and it’s nearly impossible to get them to put down their drink and take a gulp of water instead. Best of luck to you if you try to give it a go. It is also worth knowing that you can only flush alcohol from your urine in a limited way, and that time is the only factor that effectively lowers BAC and visible intoxication.

If your loved one is noticeably weak and thirsty (but continues to drink alcohol instead of water), they might be showing signs of dehydration, which is a common symptom of intoxication. If you pick up on this early on, it’s best to intercede and take them home. As they continue to drink more alcohol, the more dehydrated they will become.

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When Someone’s Drinking Habits Become a Problem

It has to be said that not everyone who enjoys drinking is likely to develop a drinking problem or become diagnosed with alcoholism. Everyone who drinks socially has been too drunk at least once in their lives, but it’s all about how they moderate their relationship with alcohol.

So, this begs the question: At what point does one’s state of inebriation become a problem?

There are many factors that influence a person’s susceptibility to dependence and alcoholism, like genetics, family history, social components, and environmental components. However, other clear and visible signs can indicate a problem with drinking habits. These include:

1. When Responsibilities Get Neglected

The moment one’s responsibilities start to get neglected can be a troubling sign of a deeper problem with alcohol. So, you may want to ask yourself:

  • Is your friend or loved one’s drinking habit preventing them from maintaining their normal work schedule?
  • Are they neglecting the care of their children or loved ones in favor of drinking?

If the answers to any of these questions are a glaring yes, then your friend may be dealing with an alcohol dependency problem.

One’s drinking habits should never take precedence over their responsibilities at work and at home. The moment they do, they are putting themselves at risk of not only developing an addiction to alcohol but completely uprooting the structure and normalcy of their lives and the lives of their loved ones. They won’t be able to hold themselves accountable for these actions — especially if the addiction is far progressed. Therefore, you might have to make the tough call and hold them responsible for their actions.

Once they sober up, it’s important to talk to them about their behaviors from the previous night. Under the best circumstances, you can shine a light on their poor relationship with alcohol and motivate them to seek professional treatment for their afflictions.

2. When They are Jeopardizing Their Health

Heart disease of an alcoholic

When a person consumes alcohol in excess, this has been proven to cause a wide variety of physical and mental health problems that range in severity. Some of these health problems include:

  • Liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • Memory problems
  • Depression

In addition to these problems, frequent alcohol intoxication can cause injuries like broken bones and bruises, and in extreme cases, it can lead to the contraction of STDs. When one’s health is being jeopardized by their drinking, it may be time for professional intervention and treatment.

Quitting without professional medical advice and support is not recommended, as most people with a physical dependence on this substance will experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, which can be life-threatening.

3. When Reckless Behavior Becomes Frequent

It’s no secret that alcohol lowers one’s inhibitions and increases risky behaviors. However, when this behavior turns into pure recklessness and occurs more often than not, there should be some room for concern.

If it seems like your friend or loved one is putting themselves in dangerous and reckless situations quite frequently, there is a great chance that their drinking is getting out of control. Measures of intervention should be taken immediately as extreme recklessness due to alcoholism can open the doors to higher levels of substance abuse.

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Frequently Asked Questions on Alcohol Intoxication:

Is Drinking Alcohol Dangerous?

Regardless of one’s susceptibility to addiction, everyone has an alcohol limit as there is such a thing as drinking too much. Drinking alcohol can lead to a number of short-term problems, but when it’s consumed in excess, individuals are likely to develop health issues that have long-term consequences, up to and including overdose or alcohol poisoning.

How Much Alcohol is Too Much?

Having a drink or two during a night out can be perfectly normal. However, there are some people who find themselves frequently drinking past this amount. Everyone’s alcohol tolerance will differ based on their own biology. Generally, though, having more than five drinks is considered “binge drinking.”

This can cause several issues, including potentially life-threatening intoxication and alcohol overdose, which will require emergency medical attention. If this is a regular occurrence, it is likely that you have alcohol dependence and will need to get professional help to stop drinking.

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Get Help Now if Drinking Has Become a Problem!

If you notice any of these troubling behaviors taking place in the life of your friend or loved one, it could mean their once social drinking habits have progressed into something more serious. Immediate action will need to be taken in order to halt this dangerous spiral of addiction and reduce the chance of long-term consequences.

For more information on recognizing and treating an alcohol use disorder, call Find Addiction Rehabs. Our team is available 24/7 to answer all of your recovery questions and provide you with our extensive addiction treatment resources.

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