Student Wellness
Student Wellness

How To Help a Friend

Signs of Harmful Drinking

Drinking Patterns

  • It is difficult for them to stop drinking after they have had one or two drinks.
  • When they drink, they always wind up drunk or that is the goal.
  • Even after their friends say they’ve had enough alcohol, they want to continue drinking.
  • They turn to certain “drinking buddies” or to a specific environment when they drink.
  • They crave a drink at a specific time every day, like after class or after work.
  • When they are out with friends, they sneak a few drinks without anyone’s knowledge.
  • A significant part of their day is spent obtaining, consuming, or recovering from the effects of alcohol.
  • They sometimes have a drink to help them fall asleep.
  • They sometimes stay drunk for several days at a time.

After Drinking

  • The day after drinking, they have trouble remembering what they did the night before.
  • They sometimes feel guilty about their drinking.
  • Most of the time, they have a hangover or headache after they’ve been drinking.
  • When they’re sober, they often regret things they said or did while they were drinking.
  • After drinking, they have experienced severe anxiety, shaking, or visual or auditory hallucinations.


  • Drinking has caused them to be late for class or work.
  • Their performance at school or work has suffered because of their drinking.
  • They have gotten into an argument or a fistfight while they were drinking.
  • Their drinking has led to financial problems.
  • They have neglected their classes, job, family or other obligations for two or more days in a row because they were drinking.
  • They have been arrested for intoxicated behavior or driving under the influence of alcohol.

Drinking and Emotions

  • When they’re in a social situation and no alcohol is provided, they feel uncomfortable.
  • They use alcohol as an escape when they’re angry, disappointed, or otherwise upset.
  • Their personality is altered when they consume alcohol.

Family and Friends

  • Their family or friends have expressed concern about their drinking.
  • They get irritated when their family or friends want to discuss their drinking.
  • They have lost a friend or created a rift with a family member about their drinking. They’ve tried to change
  • They’ve promised themselves to slow down or stop drinking, but they can only keep the promise for a few days or weeks at a time.
  • They have tried switching from one kind of alcohol to another in an effort to cut down or remain in control of their drinking, or to try to avoid getting drunk

Tips to Help a Friend

  • Talk to your friend when they are sober. The sooner you can arrange this after a bad episode, the better.
  • Restrict your comments to what you feel and what you have experienced of your friend’s behavior. Express statements that cannot be disputed. Remarks like, “Everyone’s disgusted with you,” or, “everyone thinks you have a real problem,” will probably lead to arguments or who ‘everyone’ is. Avoid generalizations.
  • Convey your concern for your friend’s well-being with specific statements. “I want to talk to you because I am worried about you,” or “Our friendship means a lot to me. I don’t like to see what’s been happening.”
  • It is important to openly discuss the negative consequences of your friend’s drinking. Use concrete examples. ” The next day you were too hung over to write your paper. It makes me concerned that these things are happening.”
  • Emphasize the difference between sober behavior that you like and drinking behavior that you dislike. “You have the most wonderful sense of humor, but when you drink it turns into cruel sarcasm and it’s not funny any more.”
  • Be sure to distinguish between the person and the behavior.
  • Encourage your friend to consult with a professional to talk about their alcohol use. Refer to resources.
  • If you have a friend or family member you really trust, talk to them about what you’re seeing. Their involvement may help.
  • Don’t accuse or argue. If your friend gets angry or provokes you, remind yourself to remain calm and to stay focused on your goal — to be helpful by honestly expressing your concerns.
  • Don’t lecture or moralize. Remain factual, listen, and be nonjudgmental.
  • Be persistent. If your friend seems resistant, you can bring it up later or let them know you’re there for them if they ever want to talk.

Campus and Community Resources

Student Counseling Services – 515-294-5056 –

Student Wellness – 515-294-1099 –

Thielen Student Health Center – 515-294-5801 –

ISU Police Department – 515-294-4428 (non-emergency) –

Community and Family Resources  – 1-866-801-0085 –