Drunkenness or inebriation is the state of being intoxicated by consumption of alcoholic beverages to a degree that mental and physical faculties are noticeably impaired. Severe drunkenness may lead to acute alcohol intoxication. Common symptoms may include slurred speech, impaired balance, poor coordination, flushed face, reddened eyes, reduced inhibition and uncharacteristic behavior. Drunkenness can result in temporary experience of a wide range of emotions, ranging from anger, sadness, and depression to euphoria, lightheartedness and joviality. Consuming excessive amounts of alcohol may lead to a hangover the next day.


Laws on drunkenness vary between countries. In the United States, for example, it is commonly a minor offense (misdemeanor) for an individual to be intoxicated in a public place. This degree of intoxication is considerably higher than the standard for driving under the influence ("drunk driving") of alcohol or drugs, which commonly requires intoxication to the degree that mental and physical faculties are impaired.

The blood alcohol content (BAC) for legally operating a vehicle may range from a low of 0.0 mg/ml in countries such as Armenia, Hungary and Romania to 0.5 mg/ml in Australia, France and Portugal to 0.8 mg/ml in Canada, New Zealand and the Republic of Ireland.

Additionally, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration prohibits crewmembers from performing their duties with a BAC greater than 0.04%, within 8 hours of consuming an alcoholic beverage or while under the influence of alcohol.

In the UK and US, police can arrest those deemed too intoxicated in a public place for public intoxication, "drunk and disorderly" or even "drunk and incapable". There are often legal restrictions relating to sale of alcohol to intoxicated persons.

The famed drunk "Diskin" of 19th Century Dublin was famous for her flouting of anti-drinking laws and is well known today in Ireland as a symbol of the anarchy which alcohol can bring to society.

Religious views

Many religious groups permit the consumption of alcohol but prohibit intoxication. Some prohibit alcohol consumption altogether. In the Qur'an, there is a prohibition on the consumption of grape-based alcoholic beverages, and intoxication is considered as an abomination in the Qur'an and Hadith. Islamic schools of law (Madh'hab) have interpreted this as a strict prohibition of the consumption of all types of alcohol and declared it to be haraam ("forbidden"), although other uses may be permitted.

Many Protestant Christian denominations prohibit drunkenness due to the Biblical passages condemning it (for instance, Proverbs 23:21, Isaiah 28:1, Habakkuk 2:15) but many allow moderate use of alcohol (see Christianity and alcohol). Proverbs 31:4–7 states a prophecy of King Lemuel,

It is not for kings, O Lemuel, it is not for kings to drink wine; nor for princes strong drink:
Lest they drink, and forget the law, and pervert the judgment of any of the afflicted.
Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts.
Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.


It has often been said that drunkenness helps people to avoid injury from trauma, or as commonly said, "God watches over drunks and small children". According to a translation of the 4th century B.C. Taoist philosopher Zhuangzi,
A drunken man who falls out of a cart, though he may suffer, does not die. His bones are the same as other people's, but he meets his accident in a different way. His spirit is in a condition of security. He is not conscious of riding in the cart; neither is he conscious of falling out of it. Ideas of life, death, fear, etc., cannot penetrate his breast; and so he does not fear from contact with objective existences. And if such security is to be got from wine, how much more is it to got from God? It is in God that the Sage seeks his refuge, and so he is free from harm. .

Acute alcohol intoxication

Acute alcohol intoxication is synonymous with drunkenness, but context matters. The term acute alcohol intoxication is entrained in healthcare providers for use in the performance of their duties, often in emergencies. Toxicologists also speak of alcohol intoxication to discriminate from other toxins researched in the field.

Treatment for acute alcohol intoxication may include:

  • ABCs (Airway, Breathing, Circulation)
  • protecting the patient from aspirating gastric contents
  • Dextrose
  • Thiamin may be administered to prevent the development of Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, and is a treatment for chronic alcoholism, but in the acute context is usually co-administered
  • Electrolytes
  • Dialysis if the concentration is dangerously high (>400 mg%)
  • Additional medication may be indicted for nausea, tremor, and anxiety

See also



  • Sigmund, Paul. St. Thomas Aquinas On Politics and Ethics. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc, 1988, p. 77.

Further reading

  • Bales, Robert F. "Attitudes toward Drinking in the Irish Culture". In: Pittman, David J. and Snyder, Charles R. (Eds.) Society, Culture and Drinking Patterns. New York: Wiley, 1962, pp. 157–187.
  • Gentry, Kenneth L., Jr., God Gave Wine: What the Bible Says about Alcohol. Lincoln, Calif.: Oakdown, 2001.
  • Walton, Stuart. Out of It. A Cultural History of Intoxication. Penguin Books, 2002. ISBN 0-14-027977-6.

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