How do I recognise when someone's drinking is causing them harm?

How do I recognise when someone’s drinking is causing them harm?

There are a number of signs or ‘red flags’ that could suggest someone you’re supporting is experiencing problems with their drinking, these include: 

  • signs of or complaining about chronic pain
  • complaints about sleep and signs of tiredness or insomnia
  • reduced mobility, such as difficulty in walking
  • tremors, poor co-ordination or shuffling when walking
  • changes in mental health or well-being including appearing anxious or depressed
  • persistent irritability without obvious cause or agitation
  • problems with memory and concentration
  • signs of self-neglect including poor hygiene or not eating well
  • becoming increasingly secretive or making up events or stories
  • changes in financial circumstances, for example struggling to pay bills
  • recurrent accidents and injury such as falls – look out for frequent appearance of bruises
  • appearing under the influence of alcohol, with symptoms like smelling of alcohol and slurred speech
  • frequently missed appointments, particularly those in which they have forgotten to attend

Of course many of these signs could indicate other underlying health problems so it is really important to ‘start the conversation’ in a sensitive way and explore what may be going on for the individual.