How to Help an Alcoholic Stop Drinking
Advice for Friends & Family

The World Health Organisation has found that over 5% of all people over the age of 15 suffer from alcoholism – a condition that shortens life expectancy by an average of 10 years. But this disease is treatable, and if one of your friends or loved ones has an alcohol problem, there are several ways you can assist them. Here we review the signs of alcoholism, followed by some practical steps on how to help an alcoholic stop drinking.

What is alcohol addiction?

Addiction is defined as compulsive behaviour that a person continues to engage in despite the negative consequences it brings. Some types of drugs – alcohol very much included – have a physical component that makes addiction a particular danger for people who take them frequently.
Alcohol addiction is particularly dangerous because the drug itself leads to a loss of physical control, and potentially very serious health problems, when taken to excess. Short-term effects may include alcohol poisoning – while heart and liver damage, a compromised immune system, and increased risk of cancer are among the many consequences of alcohol abuse over time.

Why do alcoholics drink?

The mechanism of addiction is well understood. Alcohol prompts the body to produce neurotransmitters such as dopamine, which would otherwise be produced naturally according to the body’s own processes. The problem occurs when the body becomes accustomed to receiving these prompts, and its internal mechanisms for producing dopamine switch off. At that point, the body becomes entirely reliant on external catalysts like alcohol to regulate dopamine production.

From then on, whenever the brain requires dopamine, it translates this regular need for dopamine into an irresistible compulsion to drink alcohol. Once this stage has been reached – whether or not the affected person fully realises they have become addicted, or can admit this reality to themselves or to others – the simple fact is that they need help.
man drinks cognac. Beer time. Man drinking beer in restaurant at meeting or date.

Common signs of alcoholism

Dealing with an alcoholic can be difficult because they will often insist (and may even believe) that they can stop drinking whenever they like. Their loved ones may then feel unsure about whether professional alcohol rehab is really needed.

By taking an objective approach to the situation, friends and loved ones can place their decision to intervene on much more solid footing. The following list identifies common signs of alcoholism, which in turn suggest the need for professional help:
  • Using alcohol to deal with mental health issues such as trauma, stress, or depression
  • Frequently drinking to excess, and then lying to cover up how much they drank
  • Blacking out after heavy drinking sessions, and losing the memory of what they said or did when drunk
  • Failing to adequately handle their responsibilities at home, school, or work, for reasons related to alcohol
  • Continuing to use alcohol despite the harm it causes to their career, financial status, and/or relationships

How to help an alcoholic

Alcohol addiction means that the person cannot stop drinking on their own – and yet, in many cases, the addicted person will not seek treatment on their own either. So, what should be done?
As with most difficult problems, the best solution is to break things down into individual steps. The first step when dealing with an alcoholic is to help them realise they have a problem. For this task in particular, patience and understanding are essential virtues.

Talking / confronting to an alcoholic

Choose a time when they are not drinking, and let them know you care about their well-being. Remind them of recent situations where their drinking has led directly to negative consequences, and help them see that these situations fit into a pattern of excessive drinking and real-world harm.
Back view portrait of two women walking and talking in a park asunny day

Avoid making the accusations seem personal, and instead highlight the gap between their behaviour and their values. If met with defensiveness or an emotionally tense response, remain calm and let them know that your concern is grounded in your love for them, and has their own best interests at heart. Make sure they know they can lean on you for personal encouragement and support, but that your support will be directed toward helping them successfully end their alcohol abuse.

Before approaching them, however, it is best to share your concerns and intentions with others who are close to the addicted person. When others are ready to support your plan, and you have practiced delivering your message in the right way, then step forward and help your loved one recognise that their current path is unsustainable.

Dealing with an alcoholic in denial

If they refuse to accept that they have a problem, remain calm and let them know that you will be there for them when they are ready. They may even ask you for favours to help them drink more. But no matter how tempting or persuasive they may be, do not make it easier for them to get alcohol. Instead, take a step back, give them time to reconsider, and remind them occasionally that you are willing to do your part to help them stop drinking, whenever they are ready.
Remember that no progress can be made without their own consent and commitment to stop drinking, so don’t be pushy – just be consistent in your message, and available to them when they change their mind.

Determining the course of action

The next step is to help your loved one seek professional assistance. But most people find it very difficult to pick up the phone and ask for help. They may not know who to call, or even have the courage to talk to someone else about their alcohol problem.
Yet there are a number of people to reach out to – and in your supporting role, you can stay in the room with them while they dial, or dial the number yourself, or hold their hand while they talk. From arranging a doctor’s appointment, to calling for information about a nearby Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, to calling a local helpline, to making a reservation at an alcohol rehab centre, there are a number of positive steps to take, and you should start with the one that feels most comfortable for you both.
The journey to lasting sobriety will be long, but the hardest step to take is always the first one. For this reason, the goal of the phone call should be to schedule a clear course of action, such as getting a medical checkup or attending a treatment session. In your role of providing help for an alcoholic, your job is to help them stay the course, keep their appointment, and stay committed to their recovery goals.

Choosing the right rehab

They may be particularly anxious about getting started, but over time they will come to realise that the treatment process is entirely safe and welcoming. In most cases, treatment will require therapy sessions at a rehab facility, whether done on an outpatient basis or as part of a multi-week residential stay.
The determination about which form of rehab to enter will depend on many factors – but in general, outpatient rehab may be suitable for alcoholics with milder addictions and no co-occurring mental health issues, who also have a stable and supportive home environment, as well as other responsibilities they need to attend to each day. Residential rehabs, which provide 24-hour monitoring and help for alcoholics, tend to be the more appropriate option for people in all other situations.
Choosing the right rehab is an important step, as the quality of their treatment can make an important difference in their path toward sobriety. We recommend a rehab centre that uses evidence-based treatments, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), as a core part of their programme.

How to support an alcoholic

Yet your role does not end when your loved one is admitted to the proper treatment centre. Therapy can play a role in reducing your loved one’s urge for alcohol, but they must find something else to do with their time and energy. In your role as supporter, you can try out new hobbies with them, stay connected with them on an emotional level, and help address the underlying problems that may have led to their excessive drinking in the first place.
You can also stay in touch with them during their treatment, even if they are receiving inpatient care. Your presence and engagement could play a decisive role in helping them to stay motivated through the difficult challenges they now face when trying to leave alcohol behind.
Through it all, remember that the road to recovery is rarely straight, smooth, or short. There will be difficult moments, and very likely genuine setbacks in the form of relapses. Stay prepared for these possibilities, and do your best to remain the steady supporter and guide that they need to continue their path to long-lasting sobriety.
My support. Selective focus of hands of a nice pleasant couple being held together

Professional help for alcoholics

In the vast majority of cases, people who are addicted to alcohol are unable to maintain sobriety and regain control of their lives without professional assistance. Yet selecting the right rehab can be challenging, as there are important variables to distinguish one centre from another. In our experience, many clients find Thailand to be an ideal country for treatment, as its facilities have a high standard of quality at a lower price point.

Nevertheless, with so many rehab facilities around the world to choose from, we believe that the best rehab is the one which fits the specific needs of the person seeking treatment. From cost and comfort level, to treatment type, medical considerations, and geographical preferences, we can advise you on which rehab in Thailand might be right for your friend or loved one.

Contact us using the information below, and we’ll provide you with a free and independent consultation. From there, you’ll be able to easily arrange alcohol rehab treatment at a high-quality facility – and help your loved one take the first step toward recovery.
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  3. Baker, A., Lee, N.K. & Jenner, L. (Eds) (2004). Models of intervention and care for psychostimulant users, 2nd Edition, National Drug Strategy Monograph Series No. 51. Canberra. Australian Government Department of Health and Ageing. 
  4. Dye, M. H., Ducharme, L. J., Johnson, J. A., Knudsen, H. K., & Roman, P. M. (2009). Modified therapeutic communities and adherence to traditional elements. Journal of psychoactive drugs, 41(3), 275–283. 
  5. Australasian Therapeutic Communities Association. ABOUT ATCA. ATCA. 
  6. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (2020). Alcohol and other drug treatment services in Australia: 2018–19. Drug treatment series no. 34. Cat. no. HSE 243. Canberra: AIHW.  
  7. Ritter, A., Berends, L., Chalmers, J., Hull, P., Lancaster, K., & Gomez, M. (2014, July). New Horizons: review of alcohol and other drug treatment services. Australian Government Department of Health.  
  8. Shipway, Chris, et al. “The NSW Alcohol and Drug Residential Rehabilitation Costing Study.” The Centre for Drug and Alcohol, NSW Department of Health,
Cameron Brown
  1. Global status report on alcohol and health 2018. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2018. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
  2. Schuckit, M. A. (2014). Recognition and Management of Withdrawal Delirium (Delirium Tremens). The New England Journal of Medicine.
  3. Colon-Rivera, H., & Balasanova, A. (Reviewers). (2020, December). What Is a Substance Use Disorder?

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