Relationships, whether they’re with family members or friends, can be tricky if a loved one struggles with alcohol use disorder (AUD). AUD, which is commonly referred to as alcoholism, is a medical condition in which an individual is unable to control their alcohol consumption despite resulting negative effects.
According to the 2021 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 29.5 million people ages 12 and older had AUD in 2020. Serene Carruthers, LMFT, manager of Sharp McDonald Center, answers common questions about supporting a loved one with AUD and the programs Sharp offers.
How does AUD affect relationships?
With an increase in substance use, such as alcohol, there is often a decrease in healthy behaviors related to interpersonal connections, work, school, sleep, exercise, socialization, eating and self-care. This can result in conflict due to strained relationships and unfulfilled responsibilities. Excessive alcohol use can also lead to risky behaviors, which can include driving under the influence, mismanaging finances, or making continuous errors at work or school.
What are some warning signs of AUD?
Symptoms can be classified in three categories:
Tremors, impaired coordination and slurred speech
Decline of physical health, such as in the liver, kidneys, brain or gastrointestinal system
Unusual odor on body and breath
Changes in weight
No longer engaging in hobbies or social interactions
Lying or keeping secrets
Poor self-care or grooming habits
Changes in appetite or sleep
Changes in spending
How can I help a loved one who may be drinking too much?
State your concern while being compassionate and understanding. Offer your loved one help and encourage them to seek treatment. Remember to set and maintain healthy boundaries. And realize that you cannot make someone change.
It’s also important to have realistic expectations: Addiction is a chronic disease, so it is not cured with a single episode of treatment. Lastly, consider getting support for yourself by participating in a group such as AI-Anon, which is comprised of people who have loved ones with AUD.
What are treatment options for someone with AUD?
There are many treatment options for someone who wishes to decrease or discontinue alcohol use. Sharp McDonald Center offers various services, such as inpatient detoxification, outpatient programs and residential treatment. Sharp McDonald Center also provides Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT), which uses FDA-approved medications along with counseling and behavioral therapy to assist with recovery.
If your loved one is struggling with a mental health condition such as anxiety, depression or PTSD along with AUD, Sharp Mesa Vista provides a Dual Recovery Treatment Program. There are also several support and recovery group meetings in the community.
What kinds of support exist for someone who has a loved one with AUD?
Sharp McDonald Center has a free family education program that meets biweekly on Tuesdays. The public is welcome to join.
There is also AA and SMART Recovery, which offer free meetings for individuals to help manage urges and discuss issues due to drinking. NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) also provides helpful resources.
Learn more about substance use treatment at Sharp McDonald Center.