Should You Argue With a Drunk Person?

Table of Contents

Every now and then, you might find yourself in a heated argument with someone who’s had a little too much to drink. This can be quite distressing—especially if it happens often.

When it comes to drunk arguments with friends or loved ones, it can feel like you can’t get through to them, no matter what you say. This is because alcohol hinders a person’s ability to understand and communicate effectively.

Whether you’re dealing with relatives, friends, or acquaintances who habitually argue while drunk, this post will offer some insight on the best ways to handle it, and look out for your own well-being.

help with alcohol addiction ria health
Need Help or Have Questions?

Schedule a private call with a Ria Health team member and we can help you get started.

How to Diffuse an Argument With Someone Who’s Been Drinking

man yelling into phone, should you argue with a drunk person
Photo by christian buehner on Unsplash

Here’s a piece of advice you may have heard: Never argue with a drunk. 

No matter how triggered you may feel, or how important the issue at hand may seem, you cannot reason with someone who is intoxicated beyond the point of understanding.

If you find yourself arguing with a drunk person, do your best not to engage with them until they’ve sobered up. They may attempt to bring you into an argument by criticizing you or making insults. If you have to respond, use language that is polite, but firm, and shuts down the conversation for the time being.

Remember not to take anything they say personally—and don’t get caught up trying to explain or defend yourself.

If You Can’t Avoid Engaging in a Conversation, What Should You Do?

Here are some tips for overcoming drunk arguments with friends or loved ones:

  • Say, “I’ll keep what you’re saying in mind, and we’ll talk tomorrow.”
  • Agree to disagree until later on—but don’t leave the discussion open-ended.
  • Keep your composure.
  • If necessary, physically remove yourself from the situation until the person is sober.

Why Arguing with a Drunk Person is Often Futile

Alcohol is notorious for negatively impacting many parts of cognition, including memory, attention, problem solving, and impulse control. And for some, particularly those who already struggle to manage their anger, alcohol can also encourage more aggressive behavior.

Because of this, a person who drinks alcohol to excess may take offense more easily, have a harder time holding back, and think less about the consequences of their actions. They may also have a harder time processing what you are saying, and even practice “selective listening” (i.e. not hearing the parts of your argument that don’t line up with their current thinking).

Even if you feel very offended by a person’s words while they are intoxicated, it’s important to remember that this person is impaired. They aren’t functioning normally, and it’s therefore best not to take their behavior personally. Instead, save any serious conversation for when they are in a clear state of mind.

Download Our Free Guide
Download our guide on How to Help Someone Quit Drinking. Learn more about alcohol use disorder, communicating with a loved one, and the resources available to help.
Loved One e-book

What Should You Do If This is a Common Issue?

woman shouting, should you argue with a drunk person
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels

Over time, it might become apparent that a person in your life has a problem with their alcohol use. And in some cases, especially if they are often an “angry drunk,” it may be time for a serious heart-to-heart.

As mentioned above, it’s important not to stage an intervention—or any other serious discussion—while a person is drunk. It’s common for people to feel defensive or uncomfortable when confronted about substance abuse, or any other similar issue. The effects of alcohol will only make this worse.

However, if someone you care about is often intoxicated, and often argumentative, it may be important to have a talk with them. If this is the case, choose a good time, and have an open, empathic conversation. Use “I” statements instead of “you” statements, and emphasize that you are not judging them, and that you care about their well-being.

Read more: How to Help an Alcoholic Cut Back or Quit Drinking

The Bottom Line

In any relationship, communication is key. But real communication should take place when everyone is in the right headspace to have a meaningful conversation. 

If someone is intoxicated, they will have a harder time understanding where you’re coming from. Reaching a solution with them will be tough. Therefore, if you find yourself arguing with a drunk person, either let it go, or save the conversation for a better time.

More Resources

If you or someone you love is struggling with their alcohol use, there are newer, easier ways to find support.

Ria Health offers access to prescription medication, digital tools, support groups, and weekly coaching to help you reach your goals—whether that means cutting back or quitting completely.

Not only that, but Ria Health is 100 percent accessible from your personal device. You don’t have to go out to a doctor’s office or treatment center to receive support. Reach out to us today, or learn more about how we can help.


Have questions about online alcohol treatment?

or call (800) 504-5360

Written By:
Alicia Schultz
Alicia is a Minnesota-based freelancer who writes for Ria Health and various other brands in the health and wellness space. Beyond addiction and recovery, she also covers topics relating to general well-being, mindfulness, fitness, mental health, and more. When she’s not writing, you can find her relaxing with her three-legged cat, trying new workout routines, and spending time with her loved ones.
Reviewed By:
Evan O'Donnell
Evan O’Donnell is an NYC-based content strategist with four years’ experience writing and editing in the recovery space. He has conducted research in sound, cognition, and community building, has a background in independent music marketing, and continues to work as a composer. Evan is a deep believer in fact-based, empathic communication—within business, arts, academia, or any space where words drive action or change lives.

Table of Contents

More Topics to Read
Have questions about online alcohol treatment?

or call (800) 504-5360

Is My Drinking Normal?

Take our short alcohol quiz to learn where you fall on the drinking spectrum and if you might benefit from quitting or cutting back on alcohol.