It can be difficult to tell if someone you care about is drinking too much. As someone close to them, you may be better placed to recognise changes in their behaviour. But talking to others about your concerns isn’t always easy.
Spot the signs
The more we drink, the more we increase our tolerance for alcohol, and over time, this can lead to dependence. But it can be tricky to spot if someone is drinking in a way that could be harmful to their physical or mental health.
Here are some signs to look out for:
- A lack of interest in activities in regular activities, instead favouring occasions to drink
- Appearing drunk more often, or a need to drink more in order to get the same effect
- Seeming tired, unwell or irritable
- Not able to say no to alcohol or stop at one or two drinks
- Feeling anxious or depressed, or having trouble sleeping
- Seeming secretive or dishonest about how much alcohol they’re drinking
What to say, and what not to say
Talking about alcohol can be difficult so approach it with sensitivity and empathy. Think about how you would feel if a friend or loved one started a conversation with you about your drinking.
Choose a safe and comfortable place for the conversation, and use positive, supportive language.
These phrases may help you:
- "I've noticed that you aren't so positive since you've been drinking more. This isn't the kind of person I know you to be. I'm not bringing it up to upset you, but because I'm concerned."
- "I feel sad that we don’t do X, Y or Z anymore because it meant we had quality time together."
- "I thought it was great when you were going to yoga/football/your night class etc."
- “What are the things that make you drink more?”
Avoid criticism, making judgements and using labels such as "alcoholic". Try to keep questions open, such as, "I've noticed X, Y or Z, what do you think?" rather than "don't you think you have a problem?"
Completing the Drinkaware Unit and Calorie Calculator together could be a good way to start a conversation about how much you both drink.
How to prepare
Choosing your moment is vital. Make sure you're both in a calm mood. This isn’t the subject to talk about when you’re arguing.
You need to be ready and willing to listen. The more you listen, the more someone will feel comfortable to open up.
Be ready with as much information as possible so you can offer advice on how to get support if they ask you.
Remember, while you can support someone through their journey, they have to want to change too. It might not be as straightforward as talking about your concerns and the person then changing their behaviours. Be patient.
We also have more advice about the effect alcohol can have on your relationship.
A person’s relationship with alcohol can be complex and tied to a number of emotions, like depression, social acceptance or coping. It’s not easy for a person to acknowledge, admit or accept that their drinking could be harmful to their health and their relationships. They may not want to, and they may not be ready.
But acceptance is a big step in someone’s journey toward change. That’s why it’s important to be patient, keep your conversations open and avoid judgement.
Talk to someone
If someone you care about is drinking too much and it’s having an impact on your relationship there is support available for you too. Drinkchat is our free online chat service. Our trained advisors are on hand between 10am-2pm, Monday to Friday, to provide confidential advice.
Chat with an advisor
If you can’t contact Drinkchat in those hours, or would prefer to talk to someone on the phone, you can call Drinkline on 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am–8pm, weekends 11am–4pm) and speak to a trained adviser.