Worried about a friend or relative’s drinking?...How to start the conversation

If you are concerned about the drinking habits of your friend or family member, the chances are they are too, but may not want to talk about it. This can make it very difficult to start the conversation about their problem with alcohol.

The classic signs of alcoholism are: denial about the seriousness of the problem, increased tolerance to alcohol which enables the person to drink more before they feel drunk, and suffering from withdrawal if they don't drink regularly (for example shaking, feeling weak or sweating excessively). For more detail on this, see Priory's ‘The signs and symptoms of addiction’ blog.

Like any disease, addictions need to be treated. Try and discuss your concerns with your loved one. They may be using alcohol as a coping mechanism for an underlying mental health condition, such as depression or stress.

To approach the topic in conversation, it’s important that you are understanding and supportive. The following steps may help you to raise the topic sensitively:

  • Bring up your concerns in person and in private

  • Speak in a friendly way, without judgment or accusation

  • Avoid mentions of feelings – stick to facts instead

  • Mention specific instances or events, rather than general, vague attitudes

  • Be solution-focused and positive in the way you address the next steps

If they do not want to talk to you, speak to your GP, who can direct you to a number of helpful resources and support groups in your area. Alternatively, Alcoholics Anonymous has a free national helpline: 0800 9177 650.

When they are ready, Priory hospitals offer a free and confidential assessment with one of our experienced therapists. To book an appointment, fill in our online form for a free addiction assessment.

The first step for anyone suffering from an alcohol addiction is to recognise that they have a problem and need help. Addictions can be treated, but the earlier intervention takes place, the better the chances of recovery are, making it so important to drum up the courage and start the conversation.

This article was written by Billy Henderson, Lead Therapist in addictions, at the Priory Hospital in Glasgow.

To talk to Priory about an alcohol problem, please call 0800 840 3219