Alcohol Problems

“Hey Frank, want to grab a beer after work?”

“Sure thing, D.J., I’ll see you around six.”

Frank and D.J. often have a few beers after work, but Frank has started to worry that D.J. may be having a few too many. For one thing, he knows that D.J. has called in sick on one or two Mondays because of a hangover. And D.J. has gone from drinking two or three beers at a sitting to seven or eight. Then there was the car accident two months ago…

How do you know when someone you care about has gone from being a social drinker to a problem drinker? Some changes that should be a cause for concern include:

  • drinking that has started to interfere with work, school, or home responsibilities
  • drinking and driving
  • continued drinking despite negative effects (e.g., medical problems, arguments with others)
  • giving up other activities for drinking
  • drinking larger amounts over time without getting more intoxicated

Maybe you’ve seen some of these changes in a friend, co-worker, or family member. You’ve wondered if you should say something, or if you’re overreacting. And how will the other person react if you bring it up? Someone who has not yet identified himself or herself as a problem drinker may not like hearing, “I think you’re an alcoholic.” It’s usually more helpful to focus on your own feelings and observations: “I’ve noticed that you haven’t been going to the gym as much lately, and I’m concerned that maybe your drinking is starting to cut into other activities.”

If you do express your concerns, remember that it’s up to the other person to decide whether or not to get help. Even if he or she decides not to take any action now, don’t assume that your efforts were wasted. Your comments may be remembered later.

There are many support groups and resources to help people control their drinking, the most well-known being Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Many AA meetings are open, meaning that concerned friends and family of the drinker are welcome to attend, too. Many people are more willing to go to their first meeting if someone goes with them. Another organization, Al-Anon, is designed for those who have close friends or family with a drinking problem and want some support for themselves.