The safety risks
Living with an alcoholic is emotionally and physically exhausting, and you may often feel unsafe in your own home. There may be severe mood swings to deal with, which can often seem to come out of the blue, but even if your partner is not deliberately being aggressive towards you there are other dangers to you, your loved ones and your home. The safety risks can include:
- Physical abuse (e.g. punching, hitting, choking, throwing things at you)
- Fire hazards (falling asleep with a cigarette, leaving the chip pan on, barbecuing near a shed or tree)
- Trips and falls (drunk people are unsteady on their feet and can knock things over or fall into you)
- Danger to pets and children (again, this may not be deliberate but can be caused by stumbling while under the influence)
- Broken glass (glasses and other sharp items can get broken, increasing the risk of accidents)
- Emotional damage (living with an alcoholic long term presents a significant risk to your mental health, often leading to depression and anxiety)
Effects on friendships
When someone drinks too much, it doesn’t just affect them. Alcohol abuse has devastating effects on relationships of all kinds, and you may feel that your friendship is really being put under pressure. Let’s take a look at some of the most common effects that alcohol has on friendships.
Alcohol and aggression have been linked for centuries, and it’s well known that people are more likely to become irritable and lose their temper after too much drink. If you find yourself in a situation where your friend is violent, aggressive or argumentative towards you, remember that you don’t have to accept this behaviour.
A common part of any addiction is denial. If you feel that your friend’s drinking is out of control yet they continue to accept that they have a problem, it can be extremely frustrating to deal with.
If your friend is drinking too much, you may find that they’re struggling with their finances too. This could impact on you by never being able to pay for things when you go out or regularly asking to borrow money. Although it’s important to be there for your friends in times of need, it’s not your responsibility to handle their finances or constantly bail them out. And if they’re asking for money to buy drinks, remember that giving in to this request isn’t helping, it’s enabling the alcohol problem to take over.
Our friendship groups are reflections of ourselves, so if your friend is constantly getting drunk or causing trouble this can have a really negative impact on how people see you too. People who have alcoholic friends can often feel embarrassed by their behaviour, so if you’re regularly finding yourself having to apologise on someone else’s behalf it could mean they have a problem.
Alcohol abuse causes huge amounts of trouble in family relationships, and you may feel obliged to get involved. If you are close with your alcoholic friend’s family they may ask you to stage an intervention. On the other hand, you may find yourself with no choice but to speak to their family and have an awkward conversation that they may not be ready to hear.
Loss of friendship
Often, the friends of people with serious alcohol problems find themselves with no choice but to end the friendship. This can be particularly difficult if you’ve been friends for a long time, and can lead to intense feelings of grief. If you can, try to talk to your friend and get them to accept support. In turn, you may also want to find someone who can support you, too.
This is particularly problematic among younger people who find it difficult to say no to binge drinking. It’s important to remember that you have the right to say no and don’t have to go along with what your friend is doing, no matter how awkward the conversation may be.
If you yourself have a problem with drinking, you may also find yourself having issues with how you socialise. If your friendships have always revolved around drinking it can be difficult about how to sustain them without it. The truth is, genuine friendships are based on respect, so if you tell your friends that you’re no longer drinking they should accept your choice and support you.
If you’re worried about your friend’s drinking (or your own) contact us for confidential support and advice.
Parental alcohol misuse
Parental substance misuse can have a negative impact on children at each stage of their development. We have given some examples below:
- Physical and emotional abuse or neglect as a result of inadequate supervision, poor role models and inappropriate parenting
- Behavioural, emotional or cognitive problems and relationship difficulties
- Taking on the role of carer for parents and siblings
- Preoccupation with, or blaming themselves for, their parents’ substance misuse
- Infrequent attendance at school and poor educational attainment
- Experiencing poverty and inadequate and unsafe accommodation
- Exposure to toxic substances and criminal activities
- Separation from parents due to intervention from children’s services, imprisonment or hospitalisation
- Increased risk of developing drug or alcohol problems or offending behaviour themselves.
Living in a household where a parent or carer misuses substances doesn’t mean a child will experience abuse but it is a risk factor. An analysis of 175 serious case reviews from 2011-14 found that 47% of cases featured parental substance misuse.
Children most at risk of suffering significant harm live in families experiencing a number of different problems, such as substance misuse, domestic abuse, and parental mental health problems or learning difficulties.
The impact of substance misuse on parents and carers can lead to negative consequences for children.
You can find out more about this on the NSPCC website.
Assessing the risk:
When assessing the risks, practitioners should consider:
- If the parent is willing to acknowledge their difficulties and seek help and support
- The relationship between the parent and the child
- What social support is available to the family, such as relatives or friends who can provide the children with care and stability, offer financial support and make sure the home is clean and safe
- How excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs affects the parents. Some people lose consciousness whereas others may become aggressive. Effects may vary and depend on their current state of mind, personality, tolerance of the substance, dosage and means of administration
- If the substance abuse is dependent, hazardous or recreational
- How old the child is. Babies and young children are completely dependent on their carers for all their day-to-day needs whereas teenagers are more in need of guidance and support as they transition to adulthood
- If the child has some autonomy, is attending school and able to ask for help
- If there’s conflict or violence in the home or unsafe visitors
- The parent’s and child’s general physical and mental health
- if one parent is having difficulties or both parents
- If daily routines are maintained
- If the child has to take on a caring role for their parent and siblings
- If harmful substances and equipment are stored safely and not accessible to children
- If anything has changed recently. Substance dependency is a chronic, relapsing condition and a situation can change very rapidly.
If you are concerned about a child and the affect alcohol is having on their life, you can find out about your local GIRFEC service here.
Alternatively, contact the NSPCC.