Helping a Friend Who Abuses Alcohol

If you find yourself thinking "My friend drinks too much," this could be a sign that your friend has crossed into the realm of alcohol abuse.

If you are wondering how to help an alcoholic friend, you first need to determine whether your friend truly needs help and whether he or she is ready to accept help. Educating yourself is another step on the path to helping your alcoholic friend. Once your friend decides to seek help for his or her addiction, you should be ready to offer constructive advice and make recommendations about treatment programs.

How to Tell If Your Friend Has a Problem

If you find yourself occasionally thinking “My friend drinks too much” or “I think my friend is an alcoholic,” this could be a sign that your friend’s drinking has crossed into the realm of alcohol abuse. Having an occasional drink is not a problem, but if your friend is drinking heavily or seems to be unable to control how much he or she drinks, these are symptoms of alcohol abuse or alcoholism. If your friend becomes violent when drinking, drives while drunk, or drinks at inappropriate times, these behaviors also indicate a problem.

Is a loved one struggling with alcohol?

Educating yourself about addiction

In order to figure out the best way to help an alcoholic friend, you first must learn about alcoholism and alcohol abuse. The more you know about the signs and symptoms of alcoholism, the easier it will be for you to spot problem behaviors in your friend. It is also a good idea to learn about treatment options, alcohol withdrawal symptoms, and how to tell the difference between alcoholism and alcohol abuse. You might also want to attend a support group for people who care for an alcoholic, such as Al-Anon.

Confronting the problem

Starting an aggressive confrontation that puts the alcoholic on the defensive doesn’t help an alcoholic friend. Before talking to your friend about his or her drinking, talk to a counselor or psychologist about what you plan to say. You might also want to get other friends involved who also want to help the alcoholic. One possible approach is to tell your friend that you spoke to a therapist about his or her alcohol use because you are worried about it. This gives your friend the chance to think about the problem and realize that it is harming others.

How to Help Others Struggling with Alcohol

Setting Limits

An important part of helping an alcoholic friend is setting limits within the friendship. If you let your friend’s behavior impact your life or make excuses for your friend’s drinking, your friend may be less able to recognize the problem and less likely to seek help. Determine the boundaries you will live by and stick to them, even if your alcoholic friend gets angry. Reasonable limits include refusing to lie for your friend about his or her drinking, refusing to supply your friend with alcohol, and refusing to engage in arguments when your friend is drunk. It is especially important not to do things for your friend that he or she should be handling himself or herself. If you do things to save your friend from the consequences of alcoholism, it could take your friend much longer to reach the point where he or she is willing to seek help.

How to help an alcoholic friend

If your friend agrees that he or she has a problem, but is unsure how to stop drinking, you can help your friend by discussing potential solutions. It is a good idea to have some information on hand about treatment centers and how treatment for alcoholism works so that you can help your friend understand the process. You might also want to ask your friend how you can be of support. This might involve driving the friend to a treatment center or to an AA meeting. It could also mean helping the alcoholic with daily errands or tasks while he or she is in rehab. To learn more about how to help an alcoholic friend, call us for a free, confidential referral.

With your friend’s insurance information on hand, you can also use the free and confidential form below to see if treatment is covered.