Alcohol

If you think a friend has a drinking problem, you may want to confront the problem, offer support, and get involved to make a difference. You can help. Don’t step back believing it’s none of your business. Excessive drinking problems can be harmful to the drinker and the people around him or her. Many people with drinking problems say that talking with their friends helped them to gain better control of their drinking habits or to seek professional help.

How Do I Know There’s a Problem?

Signs and Symptoms

What are warning signs that a friend is getting into trouble with alcohol?

It might help to start by understanding some of the common signs that someone is intoxicated to the point of concern. A lot of people think that a person needs to be throwing up or passed out to need medical attention. In fact, there are many signs that can indicate a problem.

Physical Signs:

  • slurred speech
  • difficulty maintaining balance
  • feeling excessively cold or warm
  • shortness of breath
  • erratic, withdrawn, or aggressive behavior
  • queasiness, vomiting, or dry heaving
  • tired stupor
  • unconsciousness

Behavioral Signs:

  • Getting in trouble with family, roommates, significant others, friends, a resident adviser (RA), or the law as a result of drinking
  • Drinking to escape worries
  • Becoming angry or aggressive -- fighting, vandalizing, forcing sex
  • Having to drink more and more to get the "desired effect," or drinking more than you planned to
  • Blackouts
  • Trying to cut down, but not being able to
  • Missing class or work due to drinking
  • Sleeping through classes
  • Frequently drinking until you're drunk, or drinking only to get drunk
  • Unexplained anxiety, trouble sleeping, lethargy, depression
  • Rapidly drinking the first drinks in an effort to get drunk quickly
  • Having unsafe sex (sexually transmitted disease (STD) or pregnancy)
  • Driving while intoxicated

Tolerance

How do you know if your friend has a high tolerance?

Some students view tolerance in positive terms (e.g., “I can drink more and not get sick”). Students learn that although tolerance lends itself to a possible “not getting sick” reward, it also diminishes the peak positive effects from alcohol, and it “costs” more. Costs can include not doing as well on tests or papers as expected; getting arrested and having to deal with diversion, fines, community service; short and long term health issues; getting into fights or arguments; and problems with family or friends, not to mention the financial cost of more alcohol.

Tolerance is usually a signal that people have blown past their bodies’ natural warning signals that would normally inform them to slow the pace of their drinking, or to stop drinking altogether. One way of discussing this topic is to ask your friend to consider the number of drinks they require now to get a buzz from drinking alcohol, compared to when they first began drinking.

If you know your friend has had a lot to drink, but says s/he is ok, that’s probably tolerance talking. They likely have a high Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC), so arrange a sober driver to get them safely home.

Alcohol Screening

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