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Alcohol & Health
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Updated on September 14, 2023
6 min read

Drinking Alone

What Does it Mean When You Drink Alone?

Drinking is a social habit; it's one of the many ways people, especially young adults, celebrate occasions or have fun. However, there's a difference between having a couple of drinks with peers and solitary drinking.

There are many reasons why someone would drink alone. These include:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety or worries
  • Depression
  • Anger
  • Trauma
  • Reducing alcohol withdrawal symptoms

Some people may increase their alcohol consumption to escape their problems or keep their "spirits up." Others may feel ashamed of their alcohol use and don't want to be seen drinking in public.

Regardless, drinking alone can signify deeper psychological or emotional issues. It could even indicate signs of alcohol use disorder (AUD).

However, not all forms of solitary drinking are harmful. This article will discuss what you need to know about drinking alone and when to see professional help.


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Why Do Some People Drink Alone?

While many people may turn to solitary drinking because of alcohol addiction, drinking alone isn’t necessarily bad if done responsibly.

Some reasons for drinking alone include:

  • Enjoying the taste of alcoholic drinks
  • To relax or celebrate at the end of the day
  • Drinking out of boredom
  • Wanting to drink comfortably at home
  • To ease social anxiety

Drinking a glass of beer or wine alone now and then doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic. About four in ten people report that they occasionally drink alone.

However, how much alcohol you consume alcohol and how often can be worrying. Drinking alone could be a symptom of a larger issue—especially if it leads to heavy drinking.

Is Drinking Alone A Sign of Depression?

Drinking alone doesn’t necessarily cause or come from depression. However, solitary drinking is associated with a higher likelihood of depressive symptoms.

Depression can also cause people to drink alone. If you or someone you know is drinking alone because of depression, it’s best to seek help.

When Does Drinking Alone Become A Problem?

Look out for these signs to be sure that drinking alone isn’t becoming a problem:

  • Constantly thinking about alcohol throughout the day
  • Increased tolerance for alcohol, causing you to drink more to get the desired effects
  • Mental health issues such as depressive thoughts, anxiety, irritability, or mood swings
  • Practicing dangerous behaviors like drunk driving
  • Excessive drinking, leading to blackouts
  • Justifying, lying, or making excuses about drinking habits
  • Neglecting self-care, hygiene, and nutrition
  • Failure to meet obligations and responsibilities
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, irritability, or tremors

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Is Drinking Alone a Sign of Alcoholism?

Solitary drinking isn't always a sign of alcoholism. However, if you find yourself drinking alone regularly or excessively, it could signify a more serious problem.

The common symptoms of AUD, according to The DSM-5 (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), include:

  • Drinking more or longer than intended
  • Unsuccessful attempts to cut down or stop alcohol use
  • Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, or recovering from alcohol consumption
  • Cravings for alcohol
  • Failure to fulfill responsibilities at work, school, or home due to drinking alcohol
  • Continuing to drink despite having social problems caused by the effects of alcohol
  • Stopping or reducing important social, work, or recreational activities because of alcohol use
  • Drinking in physically dangerous situations
  • Continuing to drink even though it is known to have adverse effects on your health
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol
  • Having withdrawal symptoms after stopping alcohol use

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Dangers of Drinking Alone

Many risks and serious medical complications are associated with drinking alone, especially if you drink heavily. These risks include:

Increased Risk of Mental Health Issues

Alcohol abuse can negatively impact your mental health. In many cases, people suffering from alcohol abuse may also have a mental health disorder.

Depression, generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and bipolar disorder are the most common mental health issues associated with alcohol addiction.

Alcohol Poisoning

The liver can only process one serving of alcohol per hour. If you start drinking beyond this limit, your body will need more time to process it.

Someone experiencing an alcohol overdose can faint and may choke on their vomit. It can be especially dangerous when drinking alone because no one is around to help them.

Alcohol poisoning can also lead to death from asphyxiation, also known as the lack of oxygen in the body. Even if someone survives asphyxiation, they may suffer from long-lasting brain damage.

Drunk Driving

The more alcohol you drink, the more difficult it is to make rational decisions. People who drink alone may decide to drink and drive because they might not know how drunk they are.

This can lead to drunk driving, resulting in the following:

  • DUI
  • Jail time
  • Car accidents
  • Death

How to Stop Drinking Alone

If you or someone you know is drinking alone because of a drinking problem, help is available. Various addiction treatment options can cater to different needs, including support groups, therapies, and medical treatments.

Here are several options to get started on the path to recovery:

Meetings through Support Groups

Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a “nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical” program for alcoholics that’s global and available almost everywhere.

AA holds regular accountability meetings and discussion groups. Alcoholics Anonymous also uses a 12-Step approach to overcoming an addiction to alcohol. These steps include:

  • Admitting to addiction
  • Making conscious choices to change
  • Using prayer and meditation to deal with withdrawal and maintain sobriety

Rehabilitation through Addiction Centers

Addiction centers pair you with trusted healthcare professionals who are there to offer medical support through patients’ journeys to quit drinking. Both inpatient and outpatient rehab facilities are available.

Counselors can help patients overcome alcohol addiction in healthy ways. Traditional therapy can help unpack any mental or emotional traumas that trigger the tendency to drink alone.

While inpatient care may be ideal for someone experiencing severe alcohol addiction, outpatient care may be enough for someone who needs professional help without constant supervision.

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Some people take medication to treat alcoholism and other treatment methods simultaneously to stay sober.

Different drugs can help with the road to recovery. Naltrexone can help reduce alcohol cravings, so they stop wanting to drink alone. On the other hand, Acamprosate can help to repair brain damage from alcohol dependence.


There are many reasons why people might choose to drink alone; some are more harmless than others. However, drinking alone can signify deeper emotional, psychological, and mental health problems.

Drinking alone regularly and excessively could be an early sign of alcohol use disorder (AUD). If you are aware that you have a problem with alcohol, there are several available treatment options and methods to help you.

Updated on September 14, 2023
14 sources cited
Updated on September 14, 2023
All Alcoholrehabhelp content is medically reviewed or fact checked to ensure as much factual accuracy as possible.

We have strict sourcing guidelines and only link to reputable media sites, academic research institutions and, whenever possible, medically peer reviewed studies.
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  2. Alcohol Use Disorder.” Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2018.

  3. Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2020.

  4. Alcohol Use Disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

  5. Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Harm Your Health. Learn the Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019.

  6. Are We Drinking More During Isolation?” Hello Sunday Morning, 2020.

  7. Hodges, B. “Why Do We Drink Alone?” Ria Health, 2022.

  8. Is Drinking Alone An Early Warning Sign?” Association for Psychological Science, 2013.

  9. Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2020.

  10. Kuria et al. “The Association between Alcohol Dependence and Depression before and after Treatment for Alcohol Dependence.” ISRN Psychiatry, 2012.

  11. Alcohol Abuse.” Harvard Health Publishing Medical School, 2014.

  12. "Understanding the Dangers of Alcohol Overdose." National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2020.

  13. "Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help." National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2014.

  14. Ju et al. “Solitary drinking and the risk of depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation in college students: Findings from a nationwide survey in Korea.” Journal of affective disorders, 2019.

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All content created by Alcohol Rehab Help is sourced from current scientific research and fact-checked by an addiction counseling expert. However, the information provided by Alcohol Rehab Help is not a substitute for professional treatment advice.
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