Alcoholism at home
Alcohol is the most used drug in Australia. If you suspect that you or someone you live with has a drinking problem, knowing the warning signs and where to find support can be helpful.
What is alcohol dependence?
If you drink a lot of alcohol, you might become dependent on it to make you feel good. Your drinking behaviour could be harmful and a form of substance abuse.
What are the signs of harmful alcohol use?
You or someone you know might be drinking too much if they:
- have a strong urge to drink
- cannot control how much they drink
- need to drink more over time to get the same good feeling
- drink while alone, or hide alcohol from members of the household
- struggle with work, education or relationships
- lie about how much they drink
- drink early in the day or are anxious about when they will be able to drink
- forget what they said or did while they were drinking
After a period of heavy drinking, they may also experience physical effects such as:
What are the effects of alcohol dependence?
Alcohol dependence can negatively affect your health and wellbeing, and those around you. If you drink too much alcohol, you are at increased risk of illnesses such as:
It can also have a bad effect on those around you. Alcohol is a major factor in car accidents, family violence and crime.
Although it seems to make you feel good, alcohol can also negatively impact your mental health. If you have depression or anxiety, alcohol can make these conditions worse.
Caring for someone who misuses alcohol can be difficult. If you are a family member or friend living with an alcoholic, you are likely to feel:
If you are a carer, you can seek help from carers associations in your state or territory. They can provide counselling and help to organise respite care.
Visit the Carer Gateway website or call 1800 422 737 (Monday-Friday, 8am-6pm) for more information.
How is alcohol dependence treated?
The most important starting point for treatment is to talk to your doctor about how to control your alcohol use. You can search for a doctor in your region here.
Treatment options depend on the strength of alcohol dependence. For low level dependence, your doctor can discuss the problem with you and recommend counselling. They will also be able to suggest changes you can make, such as:
- drink only with food
- drink non-alcoholic drinks between alcoholic drinks to quench your thirst
- socialise with friends who don’t drink
- make plans that don’t involve alcohol
Stronger dependence will need different treatments to manage the effects of alcohol withdrawal. The treatments might include:
- behavioural treatment to improve coping skills
- peer support through groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Smart Recovery
- spending time at a detoxification facility
How to prevent harmful alcohol use
Becoming familiar with the Australian Guidelines for low risk drinking habits can help guard against harmful alcohol use.
If you have children, you should talk to them about drugs, alcohol and mental health, including binge drinking.
Being a good role model by managing your own alcohol intake can also help.
ReachOut.com has information about addiction and mental health for teenagers.
Resources and support
Contact the Alcohol Drug Information Service in your state or territory for free 24-hour counselling:
- Australia Capital Territory: (02) 6207 9977
- New South Wales: 1800 422 599 (regional), (02) 9361 8000 (metropolitan)
- Northern Territory: 1800 131 350
- Queensland: 1800 177 833 (regional), (07) 3837 5889 (metropolitan)
- South Australia: 1300 131 340
- Tasmania: 1800 811 994
- Victoria: 1800 888 236
- Western Australia: 1800 198 024 (regional), (08) 9442 5000 (metropolitan)
Visit these websites for further information and support:
- The Alcohol and Drug Foundation’s website has information on how to deal with people with drug and/or alcohol problems.
- Family Drug & Gambling Helpline supports people concerned about a loved one’s drug or alcohol use. Call 1300 660 068.
- On Track is for people with risky levels of drinking.
- The Right Mix has tips, tools and strategies to reduce the impact of drinking on your lifestyle.
- Walking a Tightrope is for families dealing with alcohol and violence.
- Alcoholics Anonymous offers help to people with a drinking problem. Call 1300 222 222.
- Beyond Blue offers support for people with depression and anxiety. Call 1300 22 4636.
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Last reviewed: June 2022