Posted On: November 21, 2022

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

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), in the U.S., 86% of people aged 18 and older consume alcohol. Despite the high percentage of people who drink alcohol, very few are aware of the signs of intoxication and how the brain is affected while drinking alcohol. In this post, we will go over the signs and stages of intoxication and being drunk.

How to Tell if Someone is Drunk 

Everyone faces the risk of excessive alcohol consumption when drinking. Unfortunately, when consuming alcohol, some people don't recognize that they are becoming intoxicated, which can become obvious to those around them. Alcohol alters an individual's behavior and makes it challenging for that individual to handle their responsibilities. As a result, it can have a tremendous negative impact on their life. 

So, how can you tell if someone is drunk? There will be signs of intoxication in the person's appearance, coordination, reflexes, and behavior. Specifically, 5 signs of intoxication may include: 

  1. Flushed cheeks
  2. Slurred speech
  3. Stumbling 
  4. Drastic mood swings
  5. Being overly generous 

However, many more signs of intoxication are not mentioned in the list, which we will go into further detail later. 

What Does Being Drunk Feel Like?  

Alcohol enters your bloodstream when you begin consuming and affects how your body and brain function very quickly. The typical way to measure intoxication for medical or legal purposes is by blood alcohol concentration or content (BAC). BAC refers to how much alcohol is in the bloodstream. Alcohol causes your body and brain to perform significantly slower when you are extremely intoxicated. 

Each person is affected differently by alcohol due to various factors. How much alcohol a person consumes and how quickly they experience signs of drunkenness depends on the following:

  • Amount consumed 
  • Rate of consumption 
  • Gender 
  • Body weight 
  • Food consumption
  • Previous drinking history
  • Whether they’ve used or consumed other drugs 

This means some people are more likely than others to become ill or feel the symptoms of intoxication quicker. 

So, how does it feel to be drunk? Feeling tipsy is the first sign that alcohol consumption impacts your body. 

When a person is tipsy, they:

  • Appear more talkative and more self-confident.
  • Are more inclined to take risks.
  • Their movements are slower.
  • Have a reduced attention span and poor short-term memory. 

The more alcohol you consume, the more drunk you feel, and the more intense the signs of drunkenness will be. Dangerous feelings of drunkenness are linked to the following:

  • Slow and/or poor judgment
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slowed breathing and heart rate
  • Vision problems
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of balance
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Signs Someone is Drunk 

Drunk signs range from mild to severe, depending on how much alcohol a person drinks and how quickly their body metabolizes it. These signs of intoxication often occur in stages, depending on how intoxicated an individual is. The following are common symptoms through the different stages of intoxication:

  • Mild intoxication. During this stage, the BAC level is between 0.00% to 0.05%. Symptoms in this stage include mild impairments to speech and memory, balance and coordination, and attention. In this stage, a person may also feel sleepiness or relaxation. 
  • Moderate intoxication. During this stage, the BAC level is between 0.06% to 0.15%. Symptoms in this stage include increased impairments to physical and reactionary skills necessary for driving, plus increased impairments to speech and attention, and balance and coordination. One may also show signs of moderate memory impairment, increased risk of aggression, increased risk of injury to self and others, and increased perceived beneficial effects of alcohol, such as relaxation. 
  • Severe intoxication. During this stage, the BAC level is between 0.16% to 0.30%. Symptoms in this stage include significant impairments to speech and memory, coordination and balance, judgment, and reaction time, as well as dangerous impairments to skills necessary for driving. Other severe side effects include vomiting, blackouts, and loss of consciousness. 
  • Life-threatening intoxication. During this stage, the BAC level is between 0.31% to 0.45%. Symptoms in this stage include loss of consciousness, the danger of a life-threatening alcohol overdose, and suppression of vital functions, leading to a significant risk of death. 

Stages of Being Drunk 

When a person drinks alcohol, the full effects may take some time to become noticeable. To provide further detail on the stages of intoxication, we’ve listed all seven stages of being drunk below: 

Stage 1: Sobriety or Mild Intoxication

You are sober or mildly intoxicated if you consumed one or fewer alcoholic drinks over the course of an hour. At this stage, you should not feel any impairment. 

Stage 2: Euphoria

You will enter the euphoric stage of intoxication after consuming 2 to 3 drinks for a male or 1 to 2 drinks for a female over one hour. This is the “tipsy” stage, where you may feel more confident and talkative, delay reaction times, and inhibitions begin to decline. 

Stage 3: Excitement

This is the “drunk” stage. In this stage, a male may have consumed 3 to 5 drinks, and a female 2 to 4 drinks in an hour, causing:

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

Stage 4: Confusion

Drinking more than 5 drinks per hour for a male or more than 4 drinks per hour for a female can lead to the confusion stage of intoxication. In this stage, a person will experience:

  • 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 greater risk of alcohol poisoning and death during this stage. A person is not aware of what is happening around or to them. They may experience: 

  • Inability to stand or walk 
  • Significant loss of motor function
  • Passing out or loss of control of bodily functions 
  • Seizures 
  • Inability to breathe normally and gag reflex not working  

Medical intervention is recommended at this stage. A person who has consumed too much alcohol is at risk of aspiration, or choking on their own vomit, or becoming severely injured, which can be dangerous and even fatal. 

Stage 6: Coma

In this stage, a person has reached a BAC of 0.35% to 0.45% and their body functions severely slow down, putting them at significant risk of slipping into a coma, which can then result in death. Emergency medical attention is critical at this stage.  

Stage 7: Death

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), excessive alcohol intoxication led to more than 140,000 deaths yearly in the United States from 2015 to 2019. At a BAC of 0.45% or higher, a person is likely to die from alcohol intoxication. Many cannot sustain their vital life functions at this stage, and the risk of respiratory arrest and death increases significantly. Remember, death is still possible at lower BAC levels. 

For more information on signs of intoxication, visit the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) website or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.

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