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How to Deal with a Drunk Daughter

Dealing with a Drunk Girl Effectively

By

Updated December 20, 2011

Handling a drunk daughter is a situation many parents dread. It is often upsetting for parents as well as for daughters, but your support predicts the best outcome for her. Here's the best way to handle this difficult situation.

1. Keep Your Cool

Image © Katherine Evans / SXC

Although it is upsetting to see your daughter under the influence of alcohol, it is imperative that you curb your instinct to overreact, and instead, that you stay cool and collected throughout the process. While you might feel angry with her, she actually needs your loving care at this time. Expressing your anger will only undermine your daughter's trust in you as a reliable source of support, increasing the likelihood that next time she gets drunk, she will do it somewhere else. And while you probably don't want to repeat the experience of seeing her intoxicated, it is significantly better than the alternatives - of her drinking with friends who don't support her or with men who may take advantage of her vulnerable state.

Do:

  • Speak clearly, calmly and kindly to your daughter.
  • Reassure her that her health and safety are of the utmost importance to you.
  • Be physically present until your daughter has sobered up, even if you lose sleep over it.

Do not:

  • Shout at your daughter, berate her or use negative language to punish her.
  • Mock your daughter's intoxication or act as if it is funny.
  • Turn her away or reject her because she is drunk (she is highly vulnerable when intoxicated).
  • Tell her she "deserves" anything bad that may have happened or may happen as a result of her drinking.
  • Force her to eat or drink anything else.

2. Check Her Alcohol Intake

Young girls can seem very drunk after drinking seemingly small amounts of alcohol because they have very low tolerance to the substance. Girls also become more intoxicated on smaller amounts of alcohol than do boys drinking the same amount, even controlling for body weight. The lighter your daughter, the more alcohol will affect her. If your daughter has drunk more alcohol than her body can handle, she may be at risk for alcohol poisoning.

If your daughter can communicate, ask her what she has been drinking and how many drinks she has had. Assure her that you need to know the truth and that it is important she does not lie about this. You can also check with her friends, her date or with the place where she was drinking to get an idea of how much she has consumed. Use the blood alcohol concentration estimate for women to check her level of intoxication. Be aware that most people underestimate how much alcohol has been consumed, especially in home-poured drinks.

3. Get Medical Help if Necessary

Take your daughter to the emergency room if:

  • She is unable to communicate clearly.
  • She has vomited - this is her body's first line of defense against overdose.
  • She is under the influence of other drugs, including prescription medication, or you think her drink may have been spiked.
  • She has lost consciousness - "passed out" or "blacked out" - at any point since starting drinking.
  • She has had a fall or sustained any other injuries.
  • There is any possibility that she has consumed strong alcoholic beverages, such as vodka or whiskey, in the past hour, which may continue to affect her later.
  • You are concerned about her health or well-being for any other reason, including the possibility that she has been sexually assaulted.

4. Address Dehydration Carefully

Your daughter may be dehydrated, particularly if she also consumed a lot of caffeine - contained in cola, coffee, tea, sports drinks and chocolate. Some girls also use diuretics (dehydrating drugs) to lose weight. But don't rush to get her to drink too much water at once, which can cause other problems including vomiting. Instead, get her to slowly sip a glass of water and take her to the emergency room for treatment if she throws up.

5. Stay Up with Her

If your daughter doesn't seem to need medical treatment, it is still a good idea to stay up with her for an hour or so to make sure she is sobering up. This reduces the risk of her vomiting in her sleep, which is a risk for asphyxiation. If she seems to be getting more, rather than less, drunk as time passes, take her to the emergency room.

6. Put Her in the Recovery Position

If your daughter is too drunk to stand up or you're unable to take her to the emergency room, put her in the recovery position and call an ambulance. If she has sobered up and seems okay to go to bed, encourage her to sleep in the recovery position. That way, if she does vomit during the night, she is less likely to inhale the vomit.

7. Address Her Emotional Problems the Next Day

Boys are at a higher risk than girls of developing alcohol problems, and there is more cultural and peer pressure on boys to drink to intoxication than there is for girls. If your daughter is drinking to intoxication, it may be more indicative of an underlying emotional problem than when your son gets drunk. For boys it may simply be a rite of passage - albeit an unhealthy one.

After she has had a chance to sober up, get a good sleep and recover from her hangover, talk to your daughter in a non-judgmental way about the events that lead up to her getting drunk. She may be going through peer pressure to drink, common among girls who befriend boys rather than other girls, although girls can pressure other girls to drink. It may be that she has some other emotional difficulty - for example, social anxiety, depression or unresolved trauma

Encourage your daughter to get help for these problems, if they are an issue. Your family doctor is a good place to start for treatment and other resources, such as family therapy. Take this event as a warning sign that problems need to be addressed now, rather than later when they are more difficult to resolve if alcohol abuse becomes a way of coping for your daughter.

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