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Recognising the Signs of Intoxication

For those working within a premise that sells and/or serves liquor, it is important to know how to recognise signs of intoxication. Knowing how to recognise these signs can help to keep patrons and staff safe. Responsible Service of Alcohol (RSA) courses educate attendees on how to identify signs of intoxication and act accordingly. Find out more about what RSA certificates are here.

In today’s blog, we take a look at some of the signs that can indicate a patron may be unduly intoxicated. Please keep in mind that this blog is a rough guide, and for an acknowledged understanding of the topic you must complete a relevant RSA from a Registered Training Organisation.

Signs of intoxication 

As a bartender, it is against the law to sell, supply, or allow liquor to be supplied to a patron who is disorderly or unduly intoxicated. This law falls under the Liquor Act 1992. According to the Queensland Liquor Act 1992, a person may be taken to be unduly intoxicated if:

  1. the person’s speech, balance, coordination or behaviour is noticeably affected; and
  2. there are reasonable grounds for believing the affected speech balance, coordination or behaviour is the result of the consumption of liquor, drugs or another intoxicating substance.

While it can be relatively easy to identify a disorderly patron, identifying a person who is unduly intoxicated may prove a bit more difficult at times. An RSA course can help you to become further educated on intoxication signs, along with providing other vital information such as drink sizes and measurements. It is important to complete an RSA before commencing work as a server of alcohol in a licensed venue.

There are several indicators that can give cause for you to believe a patron may be intoxicated. The Business Queensland website provides a good resource for assessing unduly intoxication. Before making a decision, it is important to assess if other causes could be contributing to these signs. It is unlawful to discriminate against a patron with mental or physical impairments. When looking for signs of alcohol intoxication, assess the following:


Is the patron easy to understand, or is their speech incoherent and muddled? Is the patron slurring their words? An intoxicated person may be rambling or making unintelligible conversation. They may also lose their train of thought mid-sentence.


A patron who is unduly intoxicated may be acting in an unacceptable or inappropriate manner. The behaviour of an intoxicated person can vary and could include actions such as aggression, sleeping at a bar or table, or vomiting. Other behaviour can include (but is not limited to) confusion, argumentativeness, belligerence, offensive language, or being boisterous or loud.


If somebody is struggling with balance, it could be a sign that they are intoxicated. Indicators can include uncontrollable swaying, falling down, difficulty with walking straight, stumbling, staggering, being unsteady on their feet, or bumping into furniture or people


Signs of intoxication can include the spilling or dropping of drinks, or a patron struggling to find their mouth with a drinking glass. An intoxicated patron may also have difficulty opening and closing doors, or with counting money and paying for purchases (including fumbling change).

As mentioned above, it is imperative to work out whether other factors could be causing signs of intoxication. Having a conversation with the patron in question about the possible reasons for their intoxication signs can assist you in fulfilling your obligations as stated in the Liquor Act.

Do you wish to learn more about serving alcohol, and to become qualified to work within the liquor industry? Express Online Training offers fully-accredited RSA certificates. We provide online RSA courses for all states and territories, allowing you to complete your course from the comfort of your own home!


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