Facts

Problem drinker?

How do you recognise a drinking problem?
How do you cope with another person's drinking problem?

How do you recognise a drinking problem?

Developing a tolerance or addiction to alcohol is a gradual process. Occasional excessive drinking progresses to more frequent bingeing, making it difficult to tell when drinking has become a problem. 'Use' becomes 'abuse' if someone continues to use alcohol even when it causes problems or worsens existing ones. If someone repeatedly puts himself/herself in danger (for example, by driving under the influence), this is abuse.
Major indications of a drinking problem are:

  • Needing alcohol to relax, to change one's mood, get over a particular fear or calm one's nerves.
  • Finding that one or two drinks are not enough, drinking more every day and often seeking out situations where alcohol is being drunk.
  • Wanting to quit, or trying to not drink during the day, but not succeeding.
  • Drinking quickly and greedily, drinking in secret, smelling of alcohol, and using chewing gum to disguise alcohol on one's breath.
  • Withdrawal symptoms when the person doesn't drink alcohol, such as shaky hands, sweating and sleeping badly.
  • Frequent quarrels with partner or family members about drinking.
  • Making mistakes at work, or frequent absences.
  • Driving under the influence more often.

How do you cope with another person's drinking problem?

People with a drinking problem tend to deny it at first. Trying to discourage or forbid their drinking will be of no use; Panicking and using threats to get someone to stop drinking tend to make matters worse.
A candid exchange of thoughts based on solid unbiased information can help. In any case, set clear boundaries. Make clear what you do and don't like, and what you will accept and will no longer accept. Try to find out together what the underlying problems are, and if something can be done about them.