Posted on: January 19, 2023

How to Tell if Someone is Intoxicated: 5 Signs of Intoxication

How to Tell if Someone is Intoxicated

In the United States, 86% of adults who are 18 years old and older drink, according to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Even though a large proportion of individuals drink, very few are aware of the behavioral cues of intoxication and how alcohol affects the body. Join us as we discuss behavioral cues and intoxication rate factors in this post.

How to Recognize an Intoxicated Person

Everyone who drinks runs the danger of consuming alcohol excessively. Unfortunately, some people don't know how to manage their alcohol intake. This changes a person's behavior and makes it difficult to manage their actions. It can therefore increase the risk of an awful and unexpected outcome.

So how can you tell if a person is showing signs of intoxication? The person will exhibit symptoms of drunkenness in their behavior, coordination, and appearance. The following are examples of the behavioral cues a person may display:

1. Becoming talkative or loud indicates lowered inhibitions

2. Using foul language or misbehaving, indicating impaired judgment

3. Moving very slowly or unfocused eyes displaying slowed reactions

4. Stumbling or swaying indicates a loss of coordination

The list does not include many intoxication rate factors, which we shall discuss later.

What does being drunk feel like?  

When you consume alcohol, the alcohol enters your system and has an impact on how your body and brain work. The standard method for determining intoxication for medical or legal purposes is to measure blood alcohol content (BAC). BAC calculates the amount of alcohol in a person’s blood when estimated. The more alcohol you consume, the higher your BAC will be and the more behavioral cues you will exhibit.

Alcohol affects each person differently for a variety of reasons. The following intoxication rate factors determine how quickly BAC can rise and how quickly behavioral cues will appear:

  • Strength of drink
  • Rate of consumption 
  • Biology – body fat absorbs alcohol faster
  • The physical size of the person
  • Food consumption
  • Whether they’ve taken other drugs 

This implies that certain persons are more likely than others to fall ill or experience the effects of intoxication earlier.

So, how does drinking feel? The first indication that drinking alcohol is affecting your body is feeling tipsy.

When someone is intoxicated, they:

  • Come off as more talkative and self-assured.
  • Move more slowly and drop belongings.
  • Tend to take risks or annoy others.
  • Have difficulty remembering things and a shorter attention span.

What about people who say they have a high tolerance?

Having a high alcohol tolerance is a myth. People who drink a lot and frequently have learned to hide the behavioral cues of intoxication very well. However, that does not change their BAC or the risks associated with overconsuming alcohol.

Signs of Alcohol Intoxication

Depending on how much alcohol a person consumes and how quickly their body metabolizes it, intoxication symptoms can range from moderate to severe. Depending on the person's level of intoxication, these symptoms frequently come in phases. The following are typical signs of intoxication at all levels of intoxication:

Mild Intoxication

The BAC level is between 0.00% to 0.05% at this time. Modest deficits in speech, memory, coordination, balance, and concentration characterize this stage of intoxication. A person may experience relaxation or tiredness at this time.

Moderate Intoxication

The BAC level is between 0.06% to 0.15% at this time. In this stage of intoxication, there are more impairments to driving abilities, as well as more impairments to speech, attention, balance, and coordination, as well as moderate memory impairments, increased risk of aggression, increased risk of harm to oneself or others, and increased perception of alcohol's positive effects, such as relaxation.

Severe Intoxication

The BAC level is between 0.16% to 0.30% at this time. This level of intoxication is characterized by considerable deficits in speech and memory, balance and coordination, judgment, and reaction speed, as well as dangerous deterioration of driving-related skills. Loss of consciousness, vomiting, and blackouts are among the more serious adverse effects.

Life-threatening Intoxication

The BAC level ranges from 0.31 to 0.45% at this point. In this level of intoxication, there is a high risk of mortality due to loss of consciousness, the possibility of a fatal alcohol overdose, and the suppression of essential processes.

Stages of Being Intoxicated 

When consuming alcohol, the full effects might not be felt right away. We've listed all seven stages of intoxication below for more information on the phases of intoxication:

Stage 1: Sobriety or mild intoxication

If you drink one or fewer alcoholic drinks each hour, you are either sober or barely inebriated. You shouldn't have any impairment at this point.

Stage 2: Euphoria

After ingesting two to three drinks for a male or one to two drinks for a female in an hour, you will reach the blissful state of intoxication. This is the "tippy" stage, during which you could feel more confident and talkative, experience a delay in reaction times, and start to lose your inhibitions.

Stage 3: Excitement

The "fully intoxicated" stage is at hand. In this stage, a male may have had three to five drinks in an hour, while a female may have had two to four, leading to:

  • Emotionally instability
  • Loss of coordination 
  • Lack of judgment 
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Blurry vision 
  • Drowsiness or tiredness 

Stage 4: Confusion

The confused stage of intoxication can result from consuming more than four drinks per hour for women and more than five drinks per hour for men. During this phase, a person will go through:

  • Emotional outbursts 
  • Significant loss of coordination
  • Difficulty standing and walking
  • Confusion about what’s happening
  • “Blacking out” 
  • Significantly increased pain threshold, increasing the risk of injury 

Stage 5: Stupor

There is a higher chance of mortality and alcohol poisoning at this point. A person is not conscious of their surroundings or their actions. They might go through the following:

  • The inability to walk or stand
  • Significant impairment of motor function
  • Loss of consciousness or uncontrollable bodily processes; seizures; difficulty breathing normally and a non-functioning gag reflex.

You should seek medical attention because you could endanger your life by choking on your vomit or becoming seriously hurt.

Stage 6: Coma

A person is in danger of going into a coma because their body functions have slowed down significantly, and their blood alcohol concentration has risen to between 0.35% and 0.45%. At this point, urgent medical care is essential.

Stage 7: Death

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), From 2015 to 2019, over 140,000 deaths per year in the US were caused by excessive alcohol consumption. Individuals are more likely to pass away from alcohol intoxication if their BAC is 0.45% or higher. Many people cannot maintain their essential bodily functions at this point, and the danger of respiratory arrest and mortality rises. Remember, even at lower BAC levels, mortality is still a possibility.

How to Sober Up Quickly

Unfortunately, there isn’t an old trick, Tik Tok idea, or secret remedy to counter intoxication. No amount of coffee, water, food, or aspirin will help. TIME is the only guaranteed remedy to alleviate signs of intoxication and reduce your BAC. And the more you consume, the longer it will take for your BAC and signs to fade.  The recommended consumption rate is based on the percentage of pure alcohol based on the proof. Each of the following drinks contains about half an ounce of pure alcohol, which is the recommended consumption per hour:

12oz beer = 5oz wine = 1oz 100-proof spirits = ½ oz pure alcohol (image from design)

Drink and Serve Responsibly

Understanding and recognizing the signs of intoxication can be difficult. That is why it is crucial that if you are hosting an event or serving or selling alcohol for a business, you should do so responsibly. It’s important to understand that you may be held legally responsible for illegal service or sales to underage or already intoxicated guests. That liability can have costly or longstanding consequences, including fines, jail time, loss of liquor license, or lawsuits. Enrolling in an alcohol safety training program like TIPS is an excellent way to learn the effects of alcohol and how to prevent underage consumption and intoxication. TIPS training courses are not exclusively available to people in the alcohol industry. TIPS offers online courses that make sense for people who host events in their homes and for young adults who may be exposed to alcohol.

Don’t forget the importance of drinking responsibly and monitoring those around you for behavioral cues and signs of intoxication. Drinking and serving alcohol responsibly will help protect you, your business, and your community.