How Much Is Too Much?

Dude with Drink

I have a friend that I’m pretty worried about. We met when we were freshmen, and neither of us had ever really drank or done drugs before. We started partying that year, and we both had a lot of fun. Now that we’re sophomores, though, I’ve noticed that my friend is drinking more than ever and had even tried some drugs that I would never touch. I’m still partying from time to time myself, but it’s not the same as what he’s doing. He’s drinking much more often, and even on weekdays. He’s mixing drugs and alcohol. And he doesn’t seem to understand why I’m not “keeping up,” or why I’m concerned about his behavior. I think maybe he’s veering into substance abuse territory, but I’m not sure how to know. Maybe I’m just being a nerd about things — though I don’t really think I am! Experts, can you help?

Having a friend or a loved one who is using excessive amounts of alcohol or drugs can be a very distressing thing. You’re right to worry about your friend: It sounds as if his partying has grown out of control.

Drinking as a young college student is not exactly out of the ordinary, of course. Drinking is a part of college culture in Canada and in the United States, even with students who are not yet old enough to drink legally. But just because something is common does not mean that it is safe. And drinking in the hard-partying ways that have become all too normal on college campuses can be very, very dangerous.

Anyone who has had a few too many at a college party knows the symptoms of excessive alcohol consumption, which can include dizziness, slurring of speech, and vomiting. Drink too much, and you could actually die of an alcohol overdose. You could also die of an accident caused by alcohol: Alcohol can rob you of your ability to drive and make good decisions.

Even if you survive regular binge-drinking sessions (as many college students do), that doesn’t mean that you’re not suffering serious health consequences due to drinking. Over time, alcohol can destroy your liver and your brain. It can increase your risk of cancer, liver disease, and a host of other illnesses.

And drugs are often just as bad — or worse. Depending on the drugs that your friend is taking, he could be risking overdose and addiction.

So how much is too much? Depending on the substance, any amount might be too much. For alcohol, binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks in a row for women or having five or more drinks in a row for men. On top of that, weekly drinking of more than one or two drinks a day, on average, is considered risky by experts. If you friend is exceeding these metrics, then he has a drinking problem. He also has a drinking problem if his booze habit is interfering with his life. It seems that it is; even if your friend isn’t missing classes with hangovers, he’s clearly putting a strain on your friendship with his habits.

So what can you do to help your friend? You can and should approach him with your concerns. But be careful about when and how you do so. Ideally, you want to be speaking about your feelings and experiences (rather than accusing your friend of things) and should approach your friend when he is sober and as receptive as possible to your words.

You can’t control your friend’s thoughts or decisions. When he is ready to acknowledge his problem, he’ll get help. Happily, he’ll find lots of resources available to him, including mental health professionals and counselors — there are likely even some on your campus. He may find that some time away will help him kick his habits, explain experts who run a Toronto alcohol and drug rehab. Rehab centers are great places to gain some time, space, and perspective.

Substance abuse is a very serious issue, but it doesn’t have to be your friend’s future. We wish him, and you, the best.

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