What to do when patient has alcohol on them??


I work in the Ed but I think this question is pertinent for all nurses. Twice this week I've had patients with a bottle if alcohol on them. I asked three different people what they do with the alcohol and got three different answers:1. Throw it away2. Keep it in a drawer at the nurses station and give it back to them when they are discharged 3. Dump the alcohol out and fill the bottle with water and hand it back to them. I asked the assistant nurse manager what the policy is and she said there was not a policy on this. I personally think it should be locked away with security or pharmacy and given back at discharge. How does your hospital handle this???



Specializes in MedSurg. Has 8 years experience. 20 Posts

You forgot option 4 - drink it yourself.



61 Posts

The nurses on one unit back when I was a student would confiscate the alcohol and lock it up, making sure to document how much was in the bottle. Can't have a patient that is drinking in their rooms. Not safe to administer many medications if the patient has been drinking (not to mention heavily). Increased fall risk if they drink? Absolutely! Did they give it back at discharge? Probably, but I was long gone by then. If the alcohol is so important that they insist on keeping it, then they are free to leave. At some point we are all responsible for our choices.

I smelled alcohol on a patient that was underage(13), and many accompanied symptoms. Social Services was notified by me, and I regret that to this day. His parents were slapped with a "contributing to the delinquency of a minor," and he was charged with underage drinking, open container, DUI first offense, and possession of an alcoholic beverage by a minor. In some culture it is acceptable to drink at those preteen ages! And my Spanish-Honduran roots, echo the normality of 12 years and older enjoying a drink. I was obligated by law to report, but if I could go back, he would have been covered. I think it's a personal choice to drink or not drink. It is their body, not ours to judge what to do with them. I say live and let "live." The movie "Flight" will maybe change other's minds as it shows human ability to perform "under the influence." We have to evolve. Times are tough!!!!

ChristineN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Pediatric/Adolescent, Med-Surg. 3,464 Posts

Alcohol is also found on pts in my ER frequently and I also am unsure what to do when I find it. Some nurses will throw it away without the pt's knowledge. One particular pt actually gave us his beers and said we could have them. I understand wanting to throw it away, but worry what if the pt complains you took their alcohol...

BSNbeauty, BSN, RN

1 Article; 1,939 Posts

There needs to be a policy on this. I don't care what the patients do at home, they have the right to legally drink so It doesn't make any sense to throw it away.

I'm going to bring this up when I meet with the nurse manager and demand a policy be written. It is a shame that different nurses and techs are doing something different with the alcohol and there is no documentation whatsoever.

I don't feel comfortable leaving alcohol in an unlocked drawer.

CrunchRN, ADN, RN

Specializes in Clinical Research, Outpt Women's Health. Has 25 years experience. 4,405 Posts

You forgot option 4 - drink it yourself.


beckster_01, BSN, RN

Specializes in MICU. Has 12 years experience. 1 Article; 499 Posts