Heavily intoxicated individuals are difficult to deal with in any situation. However, the funny drunk dad at the neighborhood BBQ with some questionable dance moves is far less of a problem than a belligerent inpatient admitted to a healthcare professional’s care equipped with both a serious attitude…and injuries. Taking care of the medical needs of patients under the influence of drugs or alcohol poses a threat to themselves, staff, other patients, and the entire practice itself. But, we all know that intoxicated people are way more likely to get involved in personal injuries or experience health accidents than when sober. Taking care of those people admitted after heavily hitting the sauce can be a tricky practice.
Doctors dealing with drunks.
However much physicians do not enjoy the boisterous company of drunk patients, there’s a legal obligation to make sure the patient is properly cared for. And, although it seems natural to want to deal with the sloppy middle-of-the-night cases as fast as possible to get them out of our sight, the safety of the patient is still a doctor’s responsibility. The sense of urgency associated with the rushed treatment of drunk hospital guest increases risk of misdiagnosis that could cause further complications.
Drunk patients can sometimes become uncooperative which causes obstacles for physicians. In which case, the first thing to do is evaluate the urgency of the medical treatment. Even if a patient refuses investigates and treatments, they must be done if they are considered too impaired to make the calls. However, if a drunk patient appears to be able to think properly enough that they can listen to proposed treatments, understand the proposed effects and weigh all possible consequences, then they are considered competent.
Not all intoxicated patients are created equal.
When a patient appears to be mentally capable, they are allowed to accept or refuse their medical treatments even if they are under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Not all patients under the influence should be considered incompetent; however, it takes a good deal of careful evaluation to determine what their mental state is. A common misconception is that anyone who has been drinking is unable to make the right decisions and in some cases, that is absolutely wrong.
However, some patients are so severely impaired by drugs or alcohol that they simply cannot make reasonable choices because their cognitive abilities are so shot. When a situation is so dire; as in a matter of life or limb, a doctor must do whatever is best for the patient in the most timely fashion. However, in all other cases, it is important to attempt to gain consent from either the drunk patient or a secondary decision-maker to avoid any possible legal complications in the future.
What happens when a drunk patient threatens the safety of staff?
Sometimes there’s an intoxicated patient that is so out of control that they pose a threat to employees at the hospital. However, it is only when the staff is in immediate risk that there should be any delay in assessing and treating a patient. When someone does cause such concern that the well-being of staff is questioned, then restraining the wild hospital guest and calling the police is a necessary measure.
The “Drunk-Person Posse.”
When an intoxicated person comes into the hospital they usually are not alone. Family, friends, and sometimes police make up the sauced-up individual’s entourage. Sometimes, family and friends work positively to help calm down a frantic patient; but other times they cause the person to act out even further. If the patient’s friends are equally as trashed and noisy as the patient this can only add to the stress of the situation. But, sometimes the folks that accompany the impaired patient can provide transportation home after treatments which is a positive thing for all parties.
So the next time a drunken person stumbles into your workplace, especially as healthcare professionals, proceed with caution and care.