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What to do if your child has taken alcohol or drugs

It can be frightening to see your child under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Knowing what to do can give you the confidence that you can look after them. It will also help you to stay calm.

If your child has taken alcohol or drugs:

  • stay calm and try not to panic
  • reassure them and try to keep their surroundings quiet
  • find out what they have taken - they may have taken drink or drugs, or both
  • keep checking on them when they feel better
  • do not try and discuss their drink or drug use while they are under the influence

Stay with them. Do not leave a very drunk person to ‘sleep it off’. Blood alcohol can carry on rising for a time after a person stops drinking.

If they are unresponsive or unconscious, put them in the recovery position.

Urgent advice: Call your GP or an ambulance on 112 or 999 if:

  • you’re worried about your child

Alcohol poisoning

If they are drunk

Keep them supervised.

Wait until they have sobered up and you are both calm.

Find out as much as possible about what happened.

Think about what your child needs to know so that it does not happen again.

For example:

  • Were they aware of how much they were drinking?
  • Did they drink before they left the house?
  • Did they feel anxious or under pressure?
  • Had they planned to get drunk?
  • Where did they get the alcohol?
  • Were they in any risky situations - walking on dark roads or at risk of being taken advantage of sexually?
  • How it affected their night out.

Help them to learn

Give them some information, based on what they tell you.

You could talk about:

  • the amount of alcohol in different drinks
  • how it’s dangerous to mix drinks, or drink very quickly
  • how too much alcohol in the bloodstream can lead to unconsciousness and death
  • the risks of accidents and injuries
  • how being out of control can lead them to behaving in a way they will regret

While experimenting is normal among young people, repeated episodes of drunkeness might suggest an underlying problem. Talk with your GP or local adolescent substance use service if you're worried.

Setting boundaries with young people around alcohol

Non-urgent advice: Get help with problem alcohol use

Freephone 1800 459 459 for confidential advice

Page last reviewed: 20 August 2022
Next review due: 20 August 2025