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Alcohol & Health
Treatment
Helping Alcoholics
Where Does My Call Go?
Updated on June 16, 2023
6 min read

How to Help an Alcoholic

The clinical term for alcoholism is alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is characterized by uncontrollable drinking and a preoccupation with alcohol. 

It’s hard to know exactly how to help an alcoholic, especially because alcoholism presents itself differently from person to person. However, doing so can help the alcoholic in your life get sober and healthy.

Most Effective Ways to Help an Alcoholic

Knowing how to help your loved one with their alcohol use disorder can be challenging. While you may want to confront the situation head-on, it’s essential to go about it carefully. Some ways to effectively help an alcoholic include:

Not Enabling Them

Enabling an alcoholic takes many forms; some might not even realize they’re doing it. Some signs include:

  • Giving your loved one money (allowing them to buy alcohol)
  • Making excuses for their bad habits
  • Denying their alcohol problem
  • Bailing them out of the consequences of their drinking (trouble at work, jail, etc.)

Enabling your loved one will only worsen their alcoholism. The quicker you can help your loved one get professional help, the easier their recovery process will be.

Having Sober and Constructive Discussions

Having a constructive discussion with an alcoholic loved one can be difficult. Here are things you can do to make things easier:

  • Communicate with them when they are sober rather than drunk or hungover
  • Avoid being judgemental or harsh
  • Tell them you’re concerned about how their drinking affects them and those around them
  • Avoid casting blame
  • Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements

Staging an Intervention

An intervention is an orchestrated attempt by one person or a group to help someone get help for a substance use disorder. If you can’t get your loved one into treatment willingly, you may want to set up an intervention. This is to let the person know you aren't going to tolerate their drinking problem, but you want to support their recovery.

Traditional Talk Therapy

Traditional talk therapy can help an alcoholic on the road to recovery. Sometimes, getting a therapist can be a difficult task. To help the alcoholic in your life get sober, offer your support in finding them a therapist or getting them to their appointments.

Family Therapy

Also known as family counseling, this therapy can help address the person's problems and triggers within the context of their family. Family therapy aims to bring better communication between family members.

Helping Them Stay Away From Alcohol

If you live with the person, keep alcohol hidden or out of the house. Additionally, do things together that don’t involve drinking alcohol. Find new hobbies and activities you can do together that don’t tempt them with alcoholic drinks.

Being Honest With Them

Don’t beat around the bush when telling your loved one that you care about them and want them to get help. Your honesty may be the best way to help them understand how their alcoholism negatively affects their lives and those around them.

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Signs Your Loved One Has a Drinking Problem

You aren't alone if you have a loved one with a drinking problem. An estimated 15 million people in the United States struggle with alcohol in some way.15 Roughly 64 million grew up with an alcoholic family member.14

The clinical term for alcoholism is alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD is characterized by uncontrollable drinking and a preoccupation with alcohol. 

Not everyone with a drinking problem has an AUD, but it can lead to one. Some signs that your loved one has a drinking problem include:

  • Drinking alone
  • Inability to limit or stop drinking
  • Hangovers
  • Withdrawal symptoms
  • Physical health issues
  • Excessive drinking
  • Missing work, social, and familial obligations to drink
  • Giving up on other activities or hobbies to drink
  • Legal consequences of alcohol abuse (car crashes, fights, etc.)
  • Becoming violent or angry when asked about their drinking problems
  • Not eating or eating poorly
  • Neglecting personal hygiene

People who abuse alcohol may have an easier time breaking their habits than those who are addicted. However, as stated previously, a drinking problem can easily lead to an AUD.

If your loved one has a drinking problem or alcohol addiction, there are ways you can help.

Treatment Options for Alcoholism

Fortunately, different treatment options are available for those with an AUD. These include support groups, traditional therapies, medical treatments, and more.

Additionally, if you’re looking after an alcoholic, it’s essential to get yourself help. Groups such as Al-Anon offer support to loved ones affected by an alcoholic friend or family member. These groups can give you the support you need to be there for your loved one.

Here are some treatment options your alcoholic loved one can consider:

Professional Detox

It’s often recommended that an alcoholic not quit cold turkey. That’s because it can be dangerous and even deadly.

Healthcare providers recommend a professional detox. Detoxing will help an alcoholic wean off of alcohol safely and under professional care. Most inpatient or residential treatment facilities offer this treatment.

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a global, community-driven program that involves regular accountability meetings and group discussions surrounding addiction. It’s “nonprofessional, self-supporting, multiracial, apolitical, and available almost everywhere.”

The 12-step approach is used to overcome alcohol addiction. This includes admitting addiction, making conscious choices to change, and using prayer and meditation.

Addiction Rehab Options

There are inpatient and outpatient treatment options for those seeking a rehabilitation program. 

Rehab centers offer medical supervision from trusted healthcare professionals during alcohol withdrawal and addiction recovery.

Counseling

Traditional talk therapy can help someone with an alcohol addiction discover any mental illness or emotional baggage that may trigger their addiction. Identifying the causes can help them to overcome their addiction healthily.

Group and family therapy are great options for people who want to go through it with peer support and/or their loved ones. Other options include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and motivational enhancement therapy (MET).

Medication-Assisted Treatment (MAT)

Medication for alcoholism is usually used with other treatment methods to help someone detox from alcohol.

A medical professional will assess them to prescribe the best medication, given their health history and needs. These medications might include:

  • Naltrexone reduces alcohol cravings by blocking the euphoric effects of alcohol
  • Acamprosate to help those in recovery who no longer drink alcohol and want to avoid drinking
  • Disulfiram to trigger an adverse physical reaction to alcohol to prevent relapse
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Summary

  • The clinical term for alcoholism is alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • The best way to help an alcoholic depends on the person and their situation
  • Talk therapy, group therapy, inpatient, and outpatient treatment are all great ways to help your loved one get sober
  • If you’re caring for an alcoholic, make sure to get yourself the help and support you deserve
Updated on June 16, 2023
15 sources cited
Updated on June 16, 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 (AUD).” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 29 Apr. 2020.
  3. Alcohol Use Disorder.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020.
  4. Alcohol Use Disorder: A Comparison Between DSM–IV and DSM–5.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020.
  5. Drinking Levels Defined.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2020.
  6. Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Harm Your Health. Learn the Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2019.
  7. "Factors That Affect How Alcohol Is Absorbed & Metabolized.” Office of Alcohol Policy and Education.
  8. Family History of Alcoholism: Are You at Risk?” Department of Mental Health.
  9. Preventing Chronic Disease.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2014.
  10. Skerrett, Patrick J. “Heavy Drinkers Aren't Necessarily Alcoholics, but May Be ‘Almost Alcoholics.’” Harvard Health Blog,2020.
  11. What Is AA?” Aa.org.
  12. Fergusson, David M. “Tests of Causal Links between Alcohol Abuse or Dependence and Major Depression.” Archives of General Psychiatry, 2009.
  13. Alcoholism and Psychiatric Disorders.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2002.
  14. "Alcohol Use in Families." AACAP, 2019.
  15. Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
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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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