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How to talk to a friend or family member about their alcohol use

Are you worried about someone close to you who seems to be drinking too much? 

One way you can help is to talk to them to express your concern. 

If you think a conversation would lead to you being unsafe, then it’s best to reach out for support. There are family support and family violence services that may be able to help. 

If you can safely have a conversation, here are some tips that might help: 

  • Choose the right time – wait until your friend or family member seems open to talking. If they are currently drinking alcohol, wait for another time. 
  • Think about how you will start the conversation. A good way to start might be ‘I’m worried about your drinking’ or ‘Do you sometimes drink more than you plan to?’ 
  • Be supportive and keep the conversation focused on your concern about their health and the harms from alcohol – and maybe also its effect on your relationship. Be honest about how you feel. 
  • The person might not be ready for this conversation. They might become upset, defensive or angry, or deny that there is a problem. Allow time and space for them to open up to you about how they are feeling. 
  • If they don’t want to talk about it, reassure them that you care and are willing to talk about it at any time. 
  • Keep your words and actions consistent with helping your friend or family member to cut back or quit drinking. For example, you could ask whether there are specific things you could do to provide support, or things you could do together that don’t involve alcohol. If you’ve said you’re worried about their drinking, it will be confusing if you then have a drink with them or encourage their drinking in other ways. 
  • Find out what support is available if your friend or family member wants to cut back or quit. We have some tips and tools available on this site, as well as a page of services that can help support both of you. 
  • If the conversation doesn’t go well, try again at another suitable time. Let them know how you’re feeling and that you’re there for them, without being critical. 

Protecting and supporting children

It is important that families have the best information and resources to facilitate honest conversations around alcohol. Despite the many influences on children, parents remain the single strongest influence on their children’s choices.  

This is why it is important that parents do not provide alcohol to children and young people. 

There are many ways that we can protect children and young people when it comes to alcohol, including controlling access to alcohol, providing education on alcohol and the harms it causes, as well as access to resources in the home and school environment. 

Supporting Family Conversations provides resources for parents and schools to facilitate conversations around alcohol. Parents and schools can also access the Positive Choices portal for more information on drugs and alcohol.  

Family and domestic violence

Far too many lives are shattered due to family violence and, for far too many families, alcohol makes matters worse. Alcohol use is a contributor to intimate partner violence, increasing both the frequency and severity of that violence. 

Everyone has a right to feel safe in their own home. If you, or someone you know is experiencing physical or emotional violence, you can call 1800RESPECT for advice and support or visit www.1800respect.org.au. 

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