Module 12: working with intoxicated young people: learner's workbook

4.1 The sobering-up environment

Page last updated: 2004

Once you have determined that a young person is in no physical danger from the experience of intoxication, you need to consider the environment in which they will 'sober up'. A sobering-up environment must be skillfully designed with harm-reduction in mind.

Young people can sober up in a variety of settings, depending on supports available and the potential for problems to arise. Whichever setting is chosen, close supervision is required, even when the person seems to be sleeping soundly and deeply. Sobering-up settings may include:

  • a young person's home, or a friend's home in cases of mild intoxication and low risk
  • sobering-up services
  • shelters/accommodation services
  • hospitals
  • police stations
  • a sick bay in the workplace.

Workplace learning activity

Question - If you came across an intoxicated young person who is in no physical danger:
  • Which agency in your local area is best placed to manage the young person while 'sobering up' (presuming that this cannot occur in their own home)?

  • If there isn't a designated agency, how would you manage a situation where a young person is intoxicated and requires a safe place to sober up (your workplace, a friend's home, local health service)?

  • If the young person needs to be transported to another location to sober up, which agency should be responsible for that transport?

  • What implications might there be in relation to duty of care?
A coordinated and prepared inter-agency response to these issues is vital for the appropriate management of intoxicated young people during their period of sobering up. If there is no designated agency to deal with these issues, then this should be raised in inter-agency committees. It may only require a simple agreement in writing between a few organisations stating which agency is best placed to deal with which aspect of the situation. Again, it is far better to prepare for these scenarios before they occur.
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