Take Action Against Alcohol Abuse in your Family

April 5, 2013 

If you noticed that a member of your family abused alcohol, would you know what to do? Most people don't. But experts say your action could save a life.
Consider these three steps.
First, make sure you recognize the signs of problem drinking. Observe the drinking habits of your family member. Look out for signs that they may be drinking more and tolerating larger amounts of alcohol. The CDC defines alcohol abuse as more than 5 drinks a day for men and more than 4 drinks a day for women.
If your family member sweats or shakes when they abstain from drinking for any period of time, this may constitute withdrawal which suggests they may have become dependent on alcohol. Watch for signs that they are missing work or other obligations due to drinking. Observe their habits to determine whether they try to hide their drinking, or try to hide their bottles of alcohol.
Second, intervene. Choose a time when your family member has not overindulged in alcohol. Approach the topic from your perspective of concern. Point out the ways in which their alcohol abuse results in long-term health effects that could shorten their life or even cause their death. But be sure to avoid the stern lecture approach. You are concerned about their pain and possibly shame associated with their abuse of alcohol, which is what you can show them. Try not to be confrontational.
Third, don't give up. Even if your family member gets angry or denies they have a problem, persist. This is a common reaction, and is less about you than about them not being ready to face their problem. Keep trying to have the conversation until your family member is ready for help. Then do what you can to help them get there.
Try to help your family member to change their attitude toward alcohol. Try to help them understand why they drink, and take responsibility for their drinking. If they do not respond to your repeated efforts to intervene, advocate for an alcohol training course or try to persuade them to seek treatment.
For more information, and to find a suitable rehab placement near you, see our educational videos here and our treatment locator here.