All Staff should be trained to recognise the signs of intoxication under our "Duty of Care" obligations .
This page is made up of information that has been useful in previous staff meetings / training sessions.


What is intoxication

As a result of consuming alcohol, an intoxicated person does not have the normal use of physical or mental faculties. There is no single scientific measure that determines whether a person is intoxicated, since intoxication is an observed state. Therefore, determining whether a person is intoxicated requires observing a person’s mental and physical state, and comparing that state and observed behaviour to a normal person in full possession of his or her faculties.

What should I do if I notice someone intoxicated

Refusal of service
If you feel a customer is drunk please refuse them in a respectable manor and advise colleagues and alert the bar supervisor to the individual in case further care is required.

“I think you’ve had a little to much to drink and can’t serve you anymore tonight”.

If the person is unable to stay awake;
Get immediate help from the on-shift first aid staff who will follow  protocols 


Mistaking illness or disability for intoxication

Occasionally, signs of intoxication are due to an illness or disability rather than alcohol consumption. Symptoms may be similar to that of alcohol intoxication. An initial assessment is important to determine whether the guest is ill or intoxicated. Asking guests whether they feel ill and noting medical alert jewelry, such as a diabetic bracelet, are important steps in determining whether someone is sick. Discontinuing service and helping the guest to receive medical attention can be life-saving in some instances.

Factors that influence intoxication

Rate of Consumption
When drinking, each person will be affected differently. Many factors may influence how quickly alcohol affects a patron.

Amount consumed
“Doubles” and drinks made with more than one type of liquor typically contain more alcohol than standard drinks.

Young and healthy people break down alcohol faster than the elderly and people in poor health. Younger patrons have more blood in their system, and their livers process alcohol more efficiently.

Women generally have more body fat than men and less body water with which to dilute alcohol. Women also have lower levels of the metabolizing enzyme required to break down alcohol.

Body weight and type
An overweight person generally becomes intoxicated faster than a muscular person who weighs the same and drinks the same amount of alcohol. Fatty tissue contains less water than muscle, so overweight bodies are less capable of diluting alcohol.

Food consumption
Food slows the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. On an empty stomach, alcohol reaches the brain in a few minutes and begins to affect behaviour and coordination. After a full meal, alcohol can take up to six hours to reach the brain. Food does not absorb the alcohol. It merely slows the speed at which alcohol is absorbed. Fatty foods are especially effective in slowing down the alcohol-absorption process. As fatty foods are more difficult to digest, they remain in the stomach longer than other types of food. The effect of the alcohol still occurs, but at a slower rate.

Medication and other drugs
Many common drugs (prescription medications, over-the-counter medications and illegal drugs) impair the user and increase the effects of alcohol. Using alcohol with other drugs can be very dangerous to a person’s health and safety.

Environment and mood
Many factors including the lighting, décor, music, and seating pattern may affect a guest's behaviour and consumption of alcohol. The surroundings, including interaction with other guests, may trigger emotional responses. Alcohol usually exaggerates moods. A person who is depressed or upset will likely become more depressed and upset when drinking.

Fatigue and stress
Physical, mental or emotional fatigue and stress make a person more susceptible to the effects of alcohol.

Has the customer had too much to drink?

While determining whether a customer is intoxicated can be difficult, it is important to make an initial assessment as they enter the establishment or when they are first seated. A change in behaviour or abnormal behaviour is a good indication of the effects of alcohol consumption.

If you begin to notice signs of intoxication, you can adjust your service before the guest becomes intoxicated. The signs, which can appear in any order, are shown on the following slide.

Please note This is not an exhaustive list. Discuss possible signs of intoxication with other staff members. Point out signs of intoxication to each other, or check with a more experienced staff member if you think you see some signs but are unsure.

Once you refuse someone please make sure everyone is aware of the refusal so the customer stops getting served.

Some signs of intoxication

  • Stumbling or staggering
  • Poor hand-eye coordination
  • Changes or difficulties in speech
  • Nausea and sweating
  • Sleepiness and breathing changes
  • Blurred vision
  • Overconfident or acts inappropriately
  • Confused or less alert
  • Aggressiveness

Alcohol with Other Drugs

The presence of alcohol in conjunction with other drugs often intensifies effects. This is particularly the case when alcohol is joined with other depressants, due to their common capacity to slow down a person’s central nervous system. The impact can go beyond just making the person less coordinated or drowsier. Heart and breathing rate can sometimes become reduced to such an extent that the individual falls into a coma and these crucial functions stop.



Intensified sedation, excessive dizziness 
(especially older people)

Alcohol and antihistamines
(cold and allergy medications)

Intensified sedation
Significantly slowed breathing
Cold bluish skin
Loss of consciousness

Alcohol and narcotic pain relievers or heroin

Severe drowsiness 
Depressed or even arrested cardiac & respiratory functions

Alcohol and sedatives or hypnotics
(tranquillizers, sleeping pills)

Intensified impairment in concentration, perception, reaction and control

Alcohol and cannabis (marijuana)

Intensified euphoria
Sudden heart, respiratory failure

Alcohol and cocaine


Some illegal drugs, such as marijuana, and prescription medicines, such as cough syrups, can increase intoxication levels significantly, making people appear more intoxicated than they should for the amount of alcohol consumed. Driving after combining alcohol with other drugs can substantially increase the risk of a motor vehicle accident. In addition, the risk of accidental injury—such as falls among the elderly, or overdose—is greatly increased when some types of drugs are used in combination with alcohol.

Alcohol interactions with other drugs can bring about quite unpredictable effects. Servers need to apply careful vigilance, observing patrons not just for intoxication but also for a real exaggeration of initial and more protracted symptoms normally associated with alcohol intake:

  • euphoria instead of just relaxation and giddiness,
  • worse dizziness,
  • slow reflexes,
  • slurred speech,
  • blurred vision,
  • disorientation or
  • extreme drowsiness.

We have emergency numbers (including the NPIS Poison information service) (NHS 24) stored in the telephones on site.

‘Who are You?

 Who are you is a ground-breaking multi-media campaign created by "Sexual Abuse Prevention Network" to educate and create open dialogues about sexual harm and healthy relationships. 

This video is used regularly by SIA, Police, Ambulance, Licensing establishments and care professionals to enhance training on alcohol and its links to sexual abuse.

Ask for Angela

Ask for Angela is a code-word campaign for people feeling unsafe on a date.

It encourages people to discreetly ask for help by going to the bar and 'Ask for Angela' - a phrase aimed at alerting bar staff to the cry for help so they can help defuse the situation.

Can't Get Served! 

This film looks at the situation you may face when encountered with a drunk customer in your pubs and bars and how to deal with the situation properly without creating further confrontation.