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Alcohol Problems: Helping Someone Get Treatment


What is an Actionset?

Helping a person to stop drinking can:

  • Reduce possible health problems and injuries caused by alcohol use.
  • Ease family conflicts or other relationship problems.
  • Reduce legal problems caused by alcohol abuse or dependence.

More information about alcohol use problems can be found in the topics Alcohol Abuse and Dependence and Alcohol and Drug Problems.

Return to topic:

Information, education, and support often are needed before you can help someone stop drinking. The following resources can assist you in getting help for someone who has an alcohol use problem or help you cope with living with or caring about someone who drinks.

  • Al-Anon is a group that helps families and friends of alcoholics recover from the effects of living with the drinking problem of a relative or friend. Al-Anon has meetings all over the world.
  • Alateen is a recovery program for young people affected by the drinking problem of a friend or relative. Alateen groups are sponsored by Al-Anon members.
  • Your doctor, counselor, or other health professional can provide you with information and literature to assist you in helping someone who has an alcohol use problem.
  • Local or national alcohol treatment hotlines can direct you to local organizations that can assist you in helping someone who has an alcohol use problem.

For more places to get help, see the Other Places to Get help section of the topic Alcohol Abuse and Dependence.

Test Your Knowledge

You may seek advice, education, and assistance from many sources to help someone who has an alcohol use problem to receive treatment. These include Al-Anon, Alateen, your doctor, a counselor, a local hospital, or an alcohol treatment hotline.

True
False

Sometimes family members, friends, or coworkers recognize that a person needs help for an alcohol use problem before the person does. This is usually because the person is in denial about drinking and does not think treatment is needed. A person in denial might make excuses for his or her drinking or blame other people or circumstances. People in denial might:

  • Not think they have a problem with alcohol. They might say something like, "I can handle my drinking. I have never lost a job (been in trouble with the law, had a fight with anyone) because of it."
  • Make excuses about why they drink, such as, "I have such a stressful job. I need to have a drink in the evening to wind down and relax."
  • Blame other people for their drinking: "You'd drink too, if you had a boss like mine."

People who drink heavily over many years might develop other health conditions as a result of drinking, along with problems with family and work relationships and legal problems (such as being arrested for drunk driving). Treatment can help prevent or reduce such problems.

Test Your Knowledge

A person in denial might make excuses for his or her drinking and blame other people or circumstances.

True
False

A person with an alcohol use problem does not usually develop any health problems related to alcohol.

True
False

There are many ways to help a person who has an alcohol use problem to get treatment. Follow these steps to help both yourself and the person with the alcohol use problem.

  1. Educate yourself about alcohol's effects on a person and the person's family. Learn how alcohol affects health and how it can lead to serious health problems. You can get information by contacting an alcohol and drug treatment center in your area and talking with a health professional trained in dealing with alcohol use problems.
  2. Allow consequences. Let the person suffer the consequences of his or her drinking behavior. Stop making excuses for the drinking. Don't take over the person's responsibilities or cover up for him or her. If you are having problems recognizing and changing your enabling behaviors, talk with a health professional or go to a support group such as Al-Anon for people affected by someone who has an alcohol use problem. Allowing the person to suffer consequences might help the person realize that alcohol is causing a problem.
  3. Prepare to talk with the person. Talk with a health professional who deals with alcohol and drug use problems to help you prepare. Use the checklist for helping someone get treatment for an alcohol use problem to write out your plan.
  4. Express your concerns. Talk with the person about your concerns regarding the drinking problem, and tell him or her that you care. You might choose to talk with the person during a formal intervention. This is a carefully planned meeting in which family, friends, and coworkers try to persuade a person who has a problem with alcohol to get treatment. Some health professionals, though, believe that talking with a person who has an alcohol use problem without the help of an intervention specialist might have a negative impact on everyone involved.
  5. Get treatment immediately. If the person agrees to treatment, take him or her immediately. Don't wait, because the person might decide not to go after all.
  6. Follow through. If the person does not go to treatment, follow through with what you told the person you would do if he or she did not get treatment. Not all people with alcohol use problems consent to treatment after they have been approached with the concerns of others. But this does not mean that you (and other people involved) have failed. Your expression of concern lets the person know how much you (and other people) care. It might help the person seek treatment in the future.
  7. Get help for yourself. You will receive practical advice and encouragement by attending a support group for people who have been affected by someone's alcohol use problem. Two such support groups are Al-Anon and Alateen. You might also choose to speak directly with an alcohol and drug counselor for support.

Test Your Knowledge

One of the first things to do to help a person who has an alcohol use problem to get treatment is to stop your behaviors that enable the person to continue drinking.

True
False

All attempts to help a person get treatment for an alcohol use problem work out as planned.

True
False

Now that you have read this information, you are ready to help someone get treatment for an alcohol use problem.

Talk with a health professional

Talk with a health professional who is specially trained in dealing with people who have alcohol and drug use problems before you try to help a person get treatment.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerPeter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Last RevisedJanuary 18, 2012

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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