Drinking Alone: Is It A Dangerous Sign Of Becoming An Alcoholic?

Last Updated: April 1, 2021

Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Reviewed by Michael Espelin APRN

People all over the world have a drink at home after work to unwind after a long day. Yet, frequent consumption of alcoholic drinks can quickly turn into dependence and alcoholism. Is drinking alone a sign of alcoholism? When someone drinks alone at home, it is not inherently a bad habit, but it is a practice that can lead to alcoholism. Individuals who drink alone in public places are at increased risk of becoming victims of crime. Studies have shown that people who drink alone have a greater chance of suffering from depression.

Drinking Alone: Why Do People Do It?

The excessive consumption of alcoholic beverages is a complex phenomenon that is driven by many factors. Alcoholism is associated with several severe health consequences. Does drinking alone lead to addiction? When alcohol is consumed in the company of family and friends, it is a commonly-accepted social practice. Yet, drinking alone is often frowned upon. Why do people want to drink alone?

Some of the Most Common Reasons for Consuming Alcoholic Beverages Alone Include:

  • Choosing where, when, and what to drink
  • Deciding on the pace
  • Not feeling social pressure
  • Spending quality time with oneself
  • Some people resort to drinking alone due to boredom
  • They have an exceptional liking to the taste of a particular drink
  • They self-medicate from negative emotions by drinking
  • Stress and anxiety are a strong reason why many people consume alcohol alone
  • Addicts drink alone to hide their addiction, to avoid judgment, and to stop alcohol withdrawal symptoms

If a person just had an occasional drink alone and does not lead to dependency or depression, it is not a problem. Nonetheless, solitary alcohol consumption can be associated with significant physiological, emotional, and social consequences, and there is a social stigma attached to this practice.

Is Drinking Solo Bad?

It is not uncommon for someone to reach for a bottle of beer or pour a glass of wine at the end of a tiring day at work. Many people enjoy a drink with their evening meal. For someone who has moved to a new city and is in the process of building a social network, heading to a bar on Friday night is not unusual. Drinking alone on occasion and in moderation is not a dangerous habit.

Woman with a bottle of wine drinking alone.

However, when alcohol is consumed in solitude on a more frequent basis, it can indicate a severe problem in some people. For example, if someone with a well-established social network is prone to having a drink alone, it could indicate depression or a breakdown of social interactions. Some people drink alone in an attempt to avoid questions or hide their alcoholic behavior from family and friends. Others turn to the solitary consumption of alcohol as an artificial way to overcome social anxiety. This behavior of having alcoholic drinks alone can quickly turn into an uncontrolled use of alcohol. While alcohol in moderation is safe, there is no denying the link between drinking solo and alcoholism.

When is Drinking Alone Bad?

Whatever the reason for drinking alone, it is pertinent to understand that drinking is a habit-forming activity. Without the restrictive effect of public presence, one might find themselves indulging more and more in drinking alone, which would likely lead to many health implications in the long run.

Risk of Alcohol Poisoning

Alcohol Poisoning: For someone who is abusing alcoholic drinks, alcohol poisoning is a danger that could prove fatal if it occurs when the person is alone, with no one to help. Alcohol poisoning has dangerous effects on the human body. This is especially dangerous while a person is home alone. If an intoxicated person passes out and is lying on their back, they can suffocate if they vomit.

Woman feeling dizzy after drinking alcohol.

Other alcohol poisoning symptoms, such as seizures, are also risky when an individual is alone because they can lead to falls and injuries. Alcohol poisoning affects a person’s heartbeat and breathing, which in some cases may cease altogether. If a person is alone, no one can call for help. Drinking solo means there is no one to keep a check on heavy drinkers who are at risk of alcohol poisoning.

Risk of Alcoholic Depression

Drinking Alone and Depression: Perhaps one of the worst consequences of consuming alcohol by one’s self, especially when done at home, is depression. Studies have shown that alcohol induces depressive thoughts and may sometimes lead to suicide attempts. The connection between alcohol, dep ression, and suicide cannot be understated.

Drinking to Avoid Social Interaction

Drinking and Social Interaction: Much research has been done on underage drinking and how often teenagers drink in solitude. Many adult alcoholics admit that they first started consuming alcohol at home alone. This can happen for a variety of reasons, the most common of which is social anxiety. Adolescence is frequently associated with anxiety about social interactions with friends at parties where most people first begin to experiment with alcohol. But what if a teenager has no party to go to? Consuming alcoholic drinks at home alone, isolated from others, maybe a way to avoid stressful social interactions for some youngsters. Teenagers who are having a difficult time at school, for example, with bullying or when they are in a new place with no friends, are more likely to drink alone at home.

Drinking as an Emotional Therapy

Self-Medication: People of all ages are at risk of using alcohol for self-medication. Alcoholic drinks have varying effects depending on the amount consumed. Some people have a beer or a glass of wine to “loosen up.” This gives them increased confidence and a feeling of relaxation and wellbeing. This is the stimulant effect of alcohol. Yet, if someone continues consuming drinks past a healthy limit, they begin to experience the depressive effects of alcohol. These effects include drowsiness, clouded thinking, and impaired judgment. When a person is trying to self-medicate with alcohol, they seek one or both of these effects.

The Negative Effects of Drinking Alone

Consuming alcoholic beverages often makes a person talkative, relaxed, and sometimes even confused. The consumption of alcohol affects decision-making and judgment. In some people, this social consumption gradually escalates into binge drinking or frequent heavy drinking, which can quickly turn into an addiction.

Addicted woman drinking wine.

Drinking solo can put an individual at grave risk. This is especially true for women. When intoxicated and alone, women are at a higher risk of becoming victims of sexual assault. Drink spiking is, unfortunately, not uncommon.

People who drink alone can be dangerous for others around them. Drunk driving, drunken behavior, and fights (primarily in men), and vandalism are some of the consequences of excessive consumption. Without friends or family around, these incidents are more likely to spin out of control.

Drinking Alone at Home: Is It a Sign of Depression?

Many people who drink alcoholic beverages alone do so in the privacy of their homes. Of course, if someone is alone at home and has a glass of their favorite drink, it does not mean there is a problem. But if someone is habitually consuming alcoholic beverages alone trying to treat insomnia or deal with a social situation or emotional pain, it can indicate a severe problem. Self-medication with alcohol can have severe side effects, especially when mixed with other prescription drugs.

Man is drinking alcohol on black background.

Some people take to getting drunk alone by themselves due to a sense of shame and guilt regarding alcohol. Others decide to solitary consumption to beat loneliness and hide from society. This severe form of social anxiety can lead to an inability to function normally. When uncontrolled, getting drunk alone can result in alcoholism in such people.

Interestingly, many people who drink alone at home admit that their first solitary drink was during their teenage years. At a young age, it is easy to develop dangerous habits, which can lead to alcoholism later in life. Studies have shown that teenagers are prone to start consuming alcohol alone to cope with the emotional upheavals of adolescence.

Drinking Alone in Public Places: A Dangerous Habit

Statistical data on alcohol and crime shows that not only are there emotional and psychological ramifications of drinking alcohol alone, but there is also a genuine danger of suffering physical harm. When someone goes to a bar with a group of friends, there is an unspoken agreement that friends will look out for each other and watch each other’s backs. If a friend is watching over a person consuming alcohol, it can be beneficial in situations where judgment may be clouded.

When someone drinks alone in a public place, there is no one to watch over them or offer help if needed. Solitary drinkers in a bar affect other people as well. It is more likely that a solitary drinker will lose control and instigate or participate in a fight or damage public property without friends to diffuse the situation. Getting drunk by yourself exposes you to dangers such as self-inflicted injuries or external causes.

If a person starts acting strangely after a drink, and there are no friends or family around, no one can ask about any medications that could be reacting adversely with the alcohol. This can lead to serious medical complications. The safe practice, therefore, is to have someone monitoring behavior and to keep an eye on the number of drinks a person is consuming. Drinking alone at home in public puts a person at risk because there is no one to notice if something is wrong.

Drinking Alcohol Alone: The Solution to Teen Troubles

The teenage years are a stressful and challenging time for most people. It is wrong to assume that alcohol is a socially acceptable way of dealing with stress because it is readily available in many households or college environments.

Drunk teenages lying on bed with a bottle of alcohol.

However, this misconception is why underage drinking is a problem in America and around the world. Reports in 2019 showed that 7 million youths aged 12 to 20 used more than a few sips, while 24.6 percent of youths aged 14 to 15 drank alcohol at least once. Alcoholic beverages are often the first thing teenagers turn to when trying to deal with adolescents’ anxieties. This is a hazardous habit because it can create a dependence on the rest of the person’s life. Turning to alcohol to numb difficult feelings instead of experiencing and overcoming them is the first milestone on the road to alcoholism.

Teenagers who consume alcohol alone at home are likely to drink more and to do it more frequently. The purpose of consuming alcoholic drinks alone at home is different in teenagers than in adults. At a party with friends, alcohol helps a teenager loosen up and be more social. If they drink too much at a party, that’s no longer possible. When consuming alcoholic beverages alone at home, there is no one watching, and there is no social pressure to keep functioning at an acceptable level.

Assault and Drinking Alone

Alcohol inhibits decision-making and makes people more impulsive. This can lead to risky decisions. People who consume alcohol alone in a public place are at a heightened chance of becoming victims of assault.

The risks are a little different for men and women, although the situation can be precarious for both sexes. According to reports, men are more likely to get into physical altercations under alcohol’s influence without weighing the potential outcomes. With no friends or family present to help mediate or calm the situation down, there is a real danger of the incident turning nasty. Without the ability to think rationally when consuming alcoholic beverages alone, men and women can both suffer dangerous consequences.

Surrounded by strangers and inebriated, a woman may not notice someone slipping something into her drink. Drink spiking is an alarmingly common practice. Women who are drunk and alone are more likely to be taken advantage of or being talked into doing something they would not normally do. The consumption of alcohol alone is associated with risky sexual behavior in both men and women. This type of behavior is far less likely when alcohol is consumed in the company of friends and family.

Does Drinking Alone Make One an Alcoholic?

Alcohol consumption without restraint is extremely widespread in society. In many cultures, social drinking is acceptable, but when it develops into solitary drinking, that is, getting drunk by yourself, it might become harmful to the user. Using alcohol alone, without any form of restraint or prompts towards moderation, may likely lead to alcoholism. In contrast, the perception of friends consuming alcohol together at a party most likely represents good times and may not happen as often as drinking solo. The media may also play a role in portraying alcoholic brands as solutions to certain emotional or physical problems.

There is a fine line between getting drunk alone occasionally and becoming an alcoholic. The solitary consumption of alcohol does not always lead to alcoholism, but it can increase the risk of becoming addicted to alcohol. Psychologists suggest asking a set of questions to determine whether there is a problem with alcohol.

Every Person Who Drinks Alone Should Ask Themselves if They:

  • anticipate or look forward to drinking when they are alone
  • can’t control their solitary drinking
  • are consuming alcohol alone to resolve a crisis or deal with loneliness
  • are letting alcohol affect their health and work
  • drive motor vehicles after consuming alcohol alone

Drinking in solitude at home is not always bad, and it does not always lead to alcoholism. However, solitary consumption of alcoholic drinks at home is potentially dangerous behavior. If someone is unsure whether their alcohol consumption alone is a good idea, they should check their motivation for doing so. If the goal is to self-medicate, fix an emotional problem, or shut out the rest of the world, drinking alone at home is a potentially dangerous habit. But if someone has an occasional drink alone after a long day at work to unwind and relax, and the amount of alcohol is within healthy limits, there is no harm. Drinking alone at home opens up a path to alcohol addiction.

Some Treatment Options for Drinking Alone or a Developed Case of Alcoholism Are:

  • Medically-assisted treatment: medications such as Naltrexone and others may assist in inhibiting alcohol cravings which may develop in individuals that drink alone.
  • Joining a support group: there are numerous self-supporting programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), located in various regions. These groups hold meetings to address alcoholism using the 12-step approach to help users control their alcohol consumption.
  • Counseling: traditional therapy is always available to address emotional trauma, as well as other triggers that may contribute to alcoholism.
  • Rehabilitation: addiction centers offer intensive care, constant supervision, detox, and other forms of alcohol addiction treatment for both inpatient and outpatient programs.

Constant monitoring of the motivation and goals for drinking in solitude is necessary to prevent it from becoming a problem in the future.

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Published on: March 9th, 2018

Updated on: April 1st, 2021

About Author

Nena Messina, Ph.D.

Nena Messina is a specialist in drug-related domestic violence. She devoted her life to the study of the connection between crime, mental health, and substance abuse. Apart from her work as management at addiction center, Nena regularly takes part in the educational program as a lecturer.

Medically Reviewed by

Michael Espelin APRN

8 years of nursing experience in wide variety of behavioral and addition settings that include adult inpatient and outpatient mental health services with substance use disorders, and geriatric long-term care and hospice care.  He has a particular interest in psychopharmacology, nutritional psychiatry, and alternative treatment options involving particular vitamins, dietary supplements, and administering auricular acupuncture.