Alcohol use disorder means that a person drinks alcohol even though it causes harm to themselves or others. It can range from mild to severe. The more symptoms of this disorder you have, the more severe it may be. People who have it may find it hard to control their use of alcohol.
People who have this disorder may argue with others about how much they're drinking. Their job may be affected because of drinking. They may drink when it's dangerous or illegal, such as when they drive. They also may have a strong need, or craving, to drink. They may feel like they must drink just to get by. Their drinking may increase their risk of getting hurt or being in a car crash.
Over time, drinking too much alcohol may cause health problems. These may include high blood pressure, liver problems, or problems with digestion.
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 use disorder.
There are many ways to help a person who has alcohol use disorder to get treatment. Follow these steps to help both yourself and the person who has alcohol use disorder.
- Learn how alcohol affects:
- A person and the person's family.
- A person's health and how it can lead to serious health problems, such as stroke, depression, and cirrhosis.
You can get information by contacting an alcohol and drug treatment center in your area. Talk with a health professional trained in dealing with alcohol use disorder.
- Allow consequences.
- Let the person experience the consequences of their drinking behavior. Allowing the person to do this might help the person realize that alcohol is causing harm.
- Stop making excuses for the drinking. Don't take over the person's responsibilities or cover up for the person. For example, don't make excuses for the person when they miss work. 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 alcohol use disorder.
- Prepare to talk with the person.
Talk with a health professional who deals with alcohol and drug use disorders to help you prepare. Think about when and where you want to talk with the person. Plan what you want to say.
- Express your concerns, and encourage treatment.
Talk with the person about your concerns regarding their drinking, and tell the person that you care. Talk to the person in private, when the person isn't using alcohol and when you are both calm.
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 encourage a person who has alcohol use disorder to get treatment. Some health professionals, though, believe that talking with a person who has alcohol use disorder without the help of an intervention specialist might have a negative impact on everyone involved.
- Get the person treatment right away.
If the person agrees to treatment, don't wait. The person might decide not to go after all.
- Follow through.
If the person doesn't go to treatment, follow through with what you told the person you would do if they did not get treatment. Not all people with alcohol use disorder consent to treatment after they've been approached with the concerns of others. But this doesn't 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.
- 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. Two such support groups are Al-Anon and Alateen. You might also choose to speak directly with an alcohol and drug counselor for support.
Current as of: August 2, 2022
Author: Healthwise Staff
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Peter Monti PhD - Alcohol and Addiction