Helping a loved one with a drinking problem
If you think a loved one has a drinking problem, you may want to help but don't know how. You may not be sure it really is a drinking problem. Or, you might be afraid that your loved one will get angry or upset if you say something.
If you are concerned, DO NOT wait to bring it up. The problem is likely to get worse, not better, if you wait.
Alcohol abuse - helping a loved one; Alcohol use - helping a loved one
When is Drinking a Problem?
Drinking problems are not measured by the amount someone drinks or how often they drink. What matters the most is how drinking affects the person's life. Your loved one may have a drinking problem if they:
Learn About Alcohol Use
Start by learning all you can about alcohol use. You can read books, look online, or ask your health care provider for information. The more you know, the more information you'll have ready to help your loved one.
Get Support for Yourself
Alcohol use takes a toll on everyone. You can't help your loved one if you don't take care of yourself and get support.
What Not to Do
It is not easy to be involved with a person who has a drinking problem. It takes a lot of patience and love. You also need to set certain boundaries for your own actions so you don't encourage the person's behavior or let it affect you.
How to Talk About Alcohol Use
It's not easy, but it's important to talk with your loved one about the drinking. Find a time to talk when the person is not drinking.
These tips may help make the conversation go more smoothly:
Remember, you can't force your loved one to get help, but you can offer your support.
It may take a few tries and several conversations before your loved one agrees to get help. There are many places to get help for an alcohol problem. You can start with your family provider. The provider may recommend an addiction treatment program or specialist. You can also check with your local hospital, insurance plan, or employee assistance program (EAP).
You can play an important role by continuing to show your support. Offer to go with your loved one to doctor appointments or meetings. Ask what else you can do, such as not drinking when you are together and keeping alcohol out of the house.
When to Call Your Doctor
If you feel that your relationship with this person is becoming dangerous or is threatening your health, get help for yourself right away. Talk with your provider or a counselor.
Moyer VA; Preventive Services Task Force. Screening and behavioral counseling interventions in primary care to reduce alcohol misuse: U.S. preventive services task force recommendation statement. Ann Intern Med. 2013;159(3):210-218. PMID: 23698791 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23698791.
O'Connor PG. Alcohol use disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 33.
Review Date: 7/8/2018
Reviewed By: Ryan James Kimmel, MD, Medical Director of Hospital Psychiatry at the University of Washington Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team. 07-09-19: Editorial update.
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