There are a number of signs that someone's drinking has become unhealthy. Try to think about why they drink when they do. If any of the below is happening, then their drinking is likely of concern:
- Unhealthy motivations
- Loss of control
- Neglecting other activities
- Academic/work troubles
- Focus on alcohol
- Health effects
Drinking can become concerning not just because of its effects and consequences, but also because of a person’s motivation for drinking.
- Drinking as a way to handle problems, feel more at ease with themselves, avoid certain feelings, and/or to excuse their behavior.
- Using alcohol as a solution to problems, discomfort (e.g. social anxiety, coping with microaggressions), or boredom.
Having difficulty cutting back on their alcohol use, despite their best intentions.
- Always says they won’t drink this weekend, but they end up doing so anyway, against their intentions.
- Often plans to have one or two drinks at a party, but then ends up having more. When they say they’re finished drinking for the night, you see them going to refill their beer. The next morning you check in with them and they tell you they were blackout most of the night.
- Frequently drinks in situations where one usually wouldn’t: while studying, in the middle of the day, between classes, etc. It seems as though any occasion is an occasion for them to drink.
- Drinks in order to be able to get through the day or before stressful/uncomfortable situations so that they can handle it.
- They drink to get rid of a hangover.
Prioritizing activities that have alcohol over ones without it.
- Isn’t as interested in going out to dinner with you if they can’t have a couple drinks with their meal. Or, they’ll only go if you plan on drinking at some point in the evening.
- No longer cares about favorite activities. For example, they don’t show up to club meetings anymore because they’re always too hungover from drinking.
- Instead of joining you at a show, your friend skips out and heads to a party with alcohol.
Struggling to perform because of alcohol’s physical effects (inability to concentrate, fatigue, etc.) and because of a lack of attention paid to academics/work.
- Is absent often because they’re too hungover and/or they’ve stopped caring.
- Less invested in work— they’ve started going out on Thursdays instead of staying in like they used to.
- Too tired, anxious, or unable to focus and thus can’t perform like they used to.
Conversations tend to revolve around alcohol.
- Always talks about the party they’re going to this week and how excited they are to drink.
- Whenever you ask your friend what they’re up to this afternoon, they frequently mention going to the liquor store— they seem to always need to stock up on alcohol.
- You tell your friend you’re excited to dance at the big party this weekend, and they tell you how pumped they are to get drunk— it’s the only way they’ll enjoy a party.
- Stops hanging out with you as much so that they can spend more time around people that drink more often than you do.
Noticeable changes in health.
- Moodier than before.
- Change in weight.
- Mentions feeling fatigued all the time.
Unwillingness to recognize that their drinking behavior may be unhealthy.
- You mention your concern to your friend and they get very annoyed.
- You point out that your friend blacked out the past three weekends and they deny it, saying “No, just one time, like two weeks ago.”
- Frequently tries to downplay how alcohol affects them— you tell them how you’ve been hurt by some of the things they’ve said drunk and they say “You know I didn’t mean it. I was drunk. Don’t take it personally” as a defense every time.