Worried about someone else's drinking
How to spot the signs, know what to say and what you can do to help.
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
If you’re concerned about how much your parents are drinking there is help available. Visit the National Association for Children of Alcoholics (NACOA) or phone their free helpline on 0800 358 3456 for more information and support.