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Updated on December 11, 2022
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 we celebrate occasions or have fun. However, there's a difference between having a couple of drinks with your peers and drinking alone.

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

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

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

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

However, not all forms of solitary drinking are bad. 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 drink alone because of alcohol addiction, drinking alone isn’t necessarily bad if done responsibly. Drinking a beer or a glass of wine alone now and then doesn’t mean you’re an alcoholic. About four in 10 people report that they did occasionally drink alone.

Other reasons for drinking alone include:

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

However, you should be mindful of how many drinks you consume and how often you drink. Drinking alone could be a symptom of a larger issue that you’ll need to address — especially if it’s heavy drinking.

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 that leads to blackouts
  • Justifying, lying, or making excuses about your drinking habits
  • Neglecting self-care, hygiene, and nutrition
  • Failure to meet obligations and responsibilities
  • Alcohol withdrawal symptoms, such as nausea, irritability, or tremors

Is Drinking Alone a Sign of Alcoholism?

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

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

  • Drinking more or longer than was 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 negative effects on your health
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol
  • Having withdrawal symptoms after stopping alcohol use

Is Drinking Alone A Sign of Depression?

Drinking alone does not necessarily mean that you are depressed. People can choose to drink alone for a myriad of reasons.

However, solitary drinking is associated with a higher likelihood of depressive symptoms. Depression can cause people to drink alone.

If you or someone you know is drinking alone because of depression, consider seeking help.

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Dangers of Drinking Alone

Many risks 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, those addicted to alcohol are also diagnosed with a mental health disorder (dual diagnosis).

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. Your body will need more time to process the alcohol if you take two or more servings per hour.

Someone who is experiencing an alcohol overdose (and is passed out) may choke on their own vomit. This can be especially dangerous when drinking alone because no one is around to help them.

Alcohol poisoning can lead to death from asphyxiation, which is a lack of oxygen. 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 no one can tell them otherwise.

The person might not be aware of how drunk they are. This can lead to drunk driving, resulting in the following:

  • DUI
  • Jail time
  • Car accidents
  • Death

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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 are available, including support groups, therapies, medical treatments, and more.

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

Support Groups

Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) are available. 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, including admitting to addiction, making conscious choices to change, and using prayer and meditation to overcome the addiction.

Rehabilitation

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.

While inpatient care may be ideal for anyone with a severe addiction to alcohol, outpatient care may be enough for someone who needs professional help but doesn’t necessarily need constant supervision.

Counseling

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

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Some people use medication to treat alcoholism in combination with other treatment methods. Medications, including Naltrexone, can help to reduce alcohol cravings, so they stop wanting to drink alone.

Likewise, Acamprosate can help to repair brain damage from drinking alone often. And Disulfiram can trigger a negative physical reaction to alcohol so that patients won’t want to consume alcohol.

Summary

There are many reasons why people might choose to drink alone; some are more harmless than others. However, drinking alone can signify deeper emotional issues, psychological problems, or an alcohol use disorder.

If you are drinking alone regularly and excessively, it could be an early sign of problem drinking. Drinking alone can also be dangerous if not done responsibly.

If you are aware that you have a problem with alcohol, there are available treatment options and methods to help you.

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Updated on December 11, 2022
15 sources cited
Updated on December 11, 2022
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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  10. SAMHSA “Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” samhsa.gov, 2020.
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  14. NIH "Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help." National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2014.
  15. 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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