Dealing with intoxicated people can be challenging. A person is considered intoxicated on alcohol or other drugs when their functioning is significantly affected or impaired. This can result in challenging behaviour for themselves and/or others.
As with alcohol and other drugs, the effects of volatile substance use (VSU) intoxication will differ between individuals, as all drug experiences are impacted by a range of factors related to the drug, the individual and the environment.
However, understanding the possible effects of VSU can assist with an effective response. While a person's behaviour under the influence of volatile substances can be somewhat unpredictable, having knowledge of the effects of volatile substance intoxication can be helpful to assess the level of risk and anticipated behaviour.
Such knowledge can also reduce fear and anxiety about the situation if you know what to expect and will also ensure you are in a position to provide appropriate assistance in an emergency situation.
The approach you take will depend on your role (i.e. drug and alcohol worker, ambulance officer, police, youth worker, community street patrol) and the purpose of your interaction with the intoxicated person. Whatever your role, ensure you are familiar with your agency’s protocols for managing intoxication.
For more information about VSU intoxication, see the following pages of this website:
Consensus-based clinical practice guideline for the management of volatile substance use in Australia
National Health and Medical Research Council. Guidelines for health professionals to identify, assess and treat people who use volatile substances in metropolitan, rural and remote communities across Australia. Part of a series of resources (NHMRC-1a, NHMRC-1b, NHMRC-1). See Chapter 4 - Managing Acute Intoxication (pp 51-62).
Stone, J., Marsh, A., Dale, A., Willis, L., O’Toole, S., Helfgott, S., Bennetts, A., Cleary, L., Ditchburn, S., Jacobson, H., Rea, R., Aitken, D., Lowery, M., Oh, G., Stark, R., & Stevens, C. Mental Health Commission (MHC), WA. Comprehensive alcohol and other drug treatment manual. Explores the key skills needed to work at an individual level with people who have alcohol and other drug problems. Includes section on Managing Intoxication (p.82-83).
Department of Human Services, Victoria. Provides guidelines for the assessment, clinical management and follow-up procedures for working with people using volatile substances.