Worried that you or your friend might have a drinking problem? If you answer yes to one or more of these warning signs, there may be an alcohol problem that needs to be addressed.
If any of these warnings sound uncomfortably familiar, please seek help for yourself or your friend. For referrals, talk to your school nurse or other trusted healthcare professional. You may also call the following hotlines: the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment (CSAT) at 1-800-662-HELP (662-4357) or the Alcohol and Drug Abuse Crisis Line at 1-800-234-0420. For information, call the National Clearinghouse for Alcohol and Drug Information at 1-800-729-6686.
Alcohol comes in many forms, but one thing doesn't change: If you are under 21, it’s illegal for you to purchase or possess alcohol.
If Your Friend Has a Drinking Problem
First, it’s not your fault. Do not blame yourself for your friend’s drinking problem. Ultimately, it’s up to your friend to change his behavior. You can’t do that for him. (We’re using the male pronoun, but girls have drinking problems, too.)
Second, bravo! You're a good friend for recognizing the problem and trying to help.
Third, don’t take on this burden alone. There are many adults who can help you figure out the best approach. Talk to a trusted family member, teacher, SADD advisor, coach, school counselor, student assistance professional, family doctor, school nurse, or faith leader.
Discuss your concern when your friend isn’t high. Your friend may get angry with you, tell you to mind your own business, or may deny he has a problem. That’s common. And one conversation rarely does the trick. It may take several discussions before your friend understands how serious you are about this drinking problem. Don’t give up if he doesn’t immediately stop drinking. Here are some tips to help you with this tough conversation.
Drinking too much isn’t just illegal; it can be deadly.
Alcohol poisoning* occurs when the blood alcohol level (the percentage of alcohol circulating in the bloodstream) rises to a danger point, causing a person to lose consciousness and slip into a coma. In the worst cases, the drinker dies.
Here are some signs of alcohol poisoning.
Here’s what to do if your friend shows signs of alcohol poisoning.
Here’s what NOT to do if you think your friend has alcohol poisoning.
* A Note on Terminology:Alcohol poisoning – Some people say that referring to an alcohol overdose as alcohol poisoning is inaccurate and misleading. These people say that “poisoning” implies that a third party intervened to “poison” the individual when, really, an alcohol overdose is usually the choice of the individual. WHAT WE KNOW
Alcohol affects your body and brain. It can impair your judgment.
Drinking alcohol can have enormous negative consequences.
You don’t have to be the one who’s drinking to get hurt.
Just hanging out with people who are drinking leads to increased risk of being seriously injured, involved in a car crash, or affected by violence. At a minimum, you may have to deal with people who are sick, out of control, or unable to take care of themselves.
Women are affected more by alcohol than men are because women have less water in their bodies (water dilutes alcohol) and more adipose tissue (fat), which is not easily penetrated by alcohol, keeping the alcohol in the bloodstream.
* A Note on TerminologyBinge drinking – People in the substance abuse prevention field disagree about whether to use “binge drinking” or another term such as “high-risk drinking.” People who support use of a definition of binge drinking (four drinks in a row for women and five for men) argue that a specific amount is necessary to measure the phenomenon of heavy, sustained, problem drinking. Those concerned about the use of the term binge drinking say that this definition is not consistent with the common understanding of a binge or a “bender” that may last days. They also say that setting a specific number of drinks does not take into account the drinker’s body mass and the time period over which the drinks are consumed. These are important points, but because use of the term binge drinking has become so common in discussions of teen and college drinking, we have continued to use it. Students should recognize that binge drinking” or high-risk drinking or “drinking to intoxication” are all labels for a pattern of heavy, sustained drinking that is extremely dangerous.
1 American Medical Association. “Fact Sheet: Effects of Alcohol on Brains of Adolescents.” www.amaassn.org/ama/pub/category/9146.html
Click here to view recent statistics on special occasions and driving under the influence -- information resulting from a recent SADD/Liberty Mutual Teen Driving Study.