How To Help Someone With A Drinking Problem

There are ways that loved ones can encourage someone with a drinking problem to find treatment and assistance. Such assistance can help people with substance use disorder or addictions as well as their loved ones.

For most people, quitting drinking isn’t just deciding to stop.

In fact, if someone has been drinking heavily for a long period, they shouldn’t quit abruptly, a practice known as going cold turkey. If they suddenly stop drinking alcohol, they could experience withdrawal side effects that are painful, dangerous, and possibly fatal.

Instead, it’s best to help people find assistance, and assistance can come in different ways. Ways to Help Someone Stop Drinking:

Open the lines of communication

Opening the lines of communication can help people approach a person with a drinking problem. In fact, it can help someone determine if a loved one has a problem in the first place. Regular interactions can help people gauge how people normally are and help them spot if things are different.

When people talk, their discussions don’t have to just be about alcohol. Talking about different subjects and encouraging people to share problems can help them address topics and try to solve problems before they become worse.

Make it comfortable to talk about their problems

Talking about different subjects on a regular basis can make people feel more accustomed to conversations. This regularity and familiarity can help people feel more comfortable to talk about drinking problems and other sensitive topics.

By creating a comfortable environment that eliminates distractions and focuses on the conversations, people can create trust. People could be more willing to share their problems with people who have listened and shown concern for them in the past.

15 Million

Live with an Alcohol Use Disorder

6 Deaths

are due to Alcohol Poisoning

Only 6.7%

sought treatment

Don’t pass judgment

Listening is important, but so is withholding judgment when other people are talking.

Admittedly, that might be difficult, because sometimes people with drinking or drug problems do things they regret, and sometimes others have strong opinions on substance use. But addiction is a brain disease, not a moral choice, so treating people with substance use disorder problems and addictions compassionately is more useful than judging them.

Don’t offer an ultimatum

Along with not judging, not offering ultimatums is also a good tactic to use when discussing alcohol and drug abuse and addiction.

Ultimatums such as, “If you don’t stop drinking, your family will leave,” can produce negative effects. People might choose to keep drinking, or they might agree to treatment on a temporary basis and relapse soon after. Ultimatums can feel like coercion or threats, so it’s better to provide evidence instead of emotion in discussions with people who have alcohol problems or addiction.

Be ready with concrete examples

Using specific examples is a good way to provide evidence when you’re discussing alcohol abuse and addiction. It’s a good idea to learn about AUD (alcohol use disorder) to discover how it affects people and how people can find treatment. This can help people understand those with drinking problems and how to help them.

Contacting an intervention specialist or other professional can help people plan and stage interventions, for example. During interventions, loved ones of people with addictions give examples of how addictions have affected all of their lives. They also provide information about treatment centers and encouragement to participate in this treatment.

Don’t drink around the person

There are steps people can take to create more effective interventions. One is trying to schedule this meeting for a time when the person with the addiction is not likely to be using drugs or alcohol. It’s also important for the participants not to drink themselves.

Physically removing alcohol can also reduce the temptation to drink at other times. Just as importantly, not drinking around a person struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction shows compassion. This consideration and support can provide encouragement for people with addictions and spur them to find further assistance and sobriety.

Do not enable them

While compassion for people with drinking problems is vital, it’s also important not to enable them. People who are enablers do, say, and think things that support substance use disorder or addiction in others. This could include making excuses for a child who doesn’t go to school because of a hangover, or denying that loved ones even have problems.

Instead of prompting people to change, enabling encourages substance use disorder and addiction. The longer someone misuses alcohol or drugs, the more difficult it can be to treat their addiction. The longer an addiction continues, the more damage people might do to themselves and others.

Intervention Guide

One of the hardest parts of rehab for substance use disorder (SUD) or addiction is for people with SUD to realize and accept that they have a problem. People have a high threshold for self-delusion and rationalization.

Avoid codependency

Codependent people might also prolong the addictions of others. People who are codependent neglect their own needs and base their entire lives around loved ones who have substance use disorder, addiction, or other problems.

Because codependent people rely on their loved ones with addictions or other problems, they feel responsible for what their loved ones say, do, and feel. Codependent people may feel threatened by changes in their loved ones’ lives (even positive ones), so they often need assistance just as their loved ones need assistance.

Consider the CRAFT method

Loved ones might want to consider using the Community Reinforcement Approach And Family Training (CRAFT) to help people find assistance to treat a drinking problem.

The CRAFT method helps loved ones:

  • Spot what triggers people’s addictions and determine what happens after they drink.
  • Break any patterns that might contribute to or increase people’s drinking.
  • Develop and enhance their communication skills so they can discuss their requests and needs.
  • Learn self-care and what’s important to them so they can build lives that don’t center on their loved ones’ addictions.
  • Identify potential triggers for violence and ways to keep themselves and others safe.
  • Assist their loved ones in finding suitable addiction treatment options when they seem interested in such resources.

Addiction and substance use disorder problems hurt more than just the people using alcohol and drugs. They also hurt their loved ones.

There are ways people can support loved ones who have drinking problems while also assisting themselves.


Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance abuse, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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