How to Know When a Friend Should Stop Drinking

How to Know When a Friend Should Stop Drinking

Seeing a friend or loved one slipping into alcohol dependency or addiction is a frustrating and frightening experience. Alcohol changes brain chemistry in a way that reduces inhibition, increases confidence and blocks physical and emotional pain. While it is unlikely that someone who drinks moderately, has no personal history of substance abuse or addiction and who does not come from a family with a history of addiction will become an alcoholic, it is possible. The most common paths to alcohol addiction are binge drinking and consistent heavy drinking which is defined as more than ten drinks per week for men and more than five for women. At this level of consumption the reward center of the brain becomes physically and psychologically dependent on alcohol.

What Are the Signs of Alcoholism?

Alcohol addiction is comprised of the following four main symptoms:

  • Cravings. Does your friend crave alcohol or get irritable if it is not available? Cravings can be both physical and emotional.
  • Loss of control. Does your friend have a hard time drinking in moderation? Is it all-or-nothing? When they start drinking does it usually result in full intoxication?
  • Physical dependence. If your friend is dependent, he or she will experience withdrawal symptoms when not drinking.
  • Tolerance. Does your friend need to drink more to achieve the same buzz that one or two drinks once provided? If your friend is drinking larger quantities of alcohol, this is a sign of an abuse or addiction problem.

There are other signs of addiction to watch for as well including the following:

  • Defensiveness or emotional hostility when confronted about their drinking
  • Dishonesty about drinking, hiding drinks or sneaking drinks
  • Waning interest in people and activities that were once important
  • Emotional insecurity or volatility
  • Frequent binge drinking episodes or daily use of more than a drink or two

What Can You Do for Your Alcoholic Friend?

You cannot make your friend change, but you can learn how to communicate your concerns to him or her in a way that may lead to recovery. The following activities can be effective:

  • Prepare your thoughts ahead of time and possibly with the help of an addiction counselor
  • Communicate with specific information, gentleness and a strong hope for your friend’s future
  • Establish and reinforce healthy boundaries

Get Help for an Alcoholic Friend

If you are concerned about your friend’s use of alcohol, call our toll-free helpline today. We are here 24 hours a day, and we can help you identify an alcohol abuse problem, approach a friend about his or her addiction and research treatment options. You may play an important role in your friend’s recovery from alcoholism. The call is free and confidential, and we are ready to help however we can.