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Alcohol Problems: Helping Someone Get Treatment


Helping a person to stop drinking can:

  • Reduce possible health problems and injuries caused by alcohol use.
  • Ease family conflicts or other relationship problems.
  • Reduce legal problems caused by alcohol use.

How can you help a person who has an alcohol use problem get treatment?

There are many ways to help a person who has an alcohol use problem to get treatment. Follow these steps to help both yourself and the person with the alcohol use problem.

  1. Educate yourself about alcohol's effects on a person and the person's family. Learn how alcohol affects health and how it can lead to serious health problems, such as stroke, depression, and cirrhosis. You can get information by contacting an alcohol and drug treatment center in your area and talking with a health professional trained in dealing with alcohol use problems.
  2. Allow consequences. Let the person suffer the consequences of his or her drinking behavior. Stop making excuses for the drinking. Don't take over the person's responsibilities or cover up for him or her. If you are having problems recognizing and changing your enabling behaviors, talk with a health professional or go to a support group such as Al-Anon for people affected by someone who has an alcohol use problem. Allowing the person to suffer consequences might help the person realize that alcohol is causing a problem.
  3. Prepare to talk with the person . Talk with a health professional who deals with alcohol and drug use problems to help you prepare. Think about when and where you want to talk with the person, and what you want to say.
  4. Express your concerns. Talk with the person about your concerns regarding the drinking problem, and tell him or her that you care. You might choose to talk with the person during a formal intervention. This is a carefully planned meeting in which family, friends, and coworkers try to persuade a person who has a problem with alcohol to get treatment. Some health professionals, though, believe that talking with a person who has an alcohol use problem without the help of an intervention specialist might have a negative impact on everyone involved.
  5. Get treatment immediately. If the person agrees to treatment, take him or her immediately. Don't wait, because the person might decide not to go after all.
  6. Follow through. If the person does not go to treatment, follow through with what you told the person you would do if he or she did not get treatment. Not all people with alcohol use problems consent to treatment after they have been approached with the concerns of others. But this does not mean that you (and other people involved) have failed. Your expression of concern lets the person know how much you (and other people) care. It might help the person seek treatment in the future.
  7. Get help for yourself. You will receive practical advice and encouragement by attending a support group for people who have been affected by someone's alcohol use problem. Two such support groups are Al-Anon and Alateen. You might also choose to speak directly with an alcohol and drug counselor for support.


Current as of: June 29, 2020

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
Peter Monti PhD - Alcohol and Addiction

Alcohol Problems: Helping Someone Get Treatment