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

Last Updated: April 10, 2020

Authored by Nena Messina, Ph.D.

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 drink alone? Some of the so-called advantages of 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

If a person has an occasional drink alone, and it is not leading to dependency or depression, then 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 Alone 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. 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 be indicative of 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 alone and alcoholism.

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.
Drinking alone 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 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.
Some people take to having drinks 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, drinking 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

Beauty young brunette woman sitting at the bar with glass of whiskey in luxury interiorStatistical data on alcohol and crime shows that not only are there emotional and psychological ramifications of alcohol intake alone; but there is also a genuine danger of suffering physical harm. When someone goes out 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. It can help prevent drunk driving, poor decisions like going home with a stranger, or dangerous activities like jumping off roofs. It’s always safer to have someone keeping an eye on people consuming alcoholic drinks.
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.
Excessive alcohol use is not only a health risk, but it can also put a woman in grave physical danger. For instance, if a woman is alone at a bar, there is no one to notice if she acts strangely after a man buys her a drink. There is no one to think clearly and judge the woman’s behavior following the ingestion of a possible roofie.
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 keeping an eye on the number of drinks a person is consuming. Drinking alone is public puts a person at risk because there is no one to notice if something is wrong.

Why is Drinking Alone Bad?

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. Vomiting without a gag reflex can lead someone to choke on their vomit. This is especially dangerous while a person is home alone. If an intoxicated person passes out and is laying on their back, it is possible for them to suffocate if they vomit.
Other symptoms of alcohol poisoning, 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 alone means there is no one to keep a check on heavy drinkers who are at risk of alcohol poisoning.
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, depression, and suicide cannot be understated. Many people, including teenagers, make an unfortunate spontaneous decision to end their life under the influence of alcoholic drinks. Statistics show that this problem is even more severe in people with a history of drug abuse and people who were previously victims of violence.
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, may be 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.
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.

Drinking Alcohol: The Solution to Teen Troubles

Depressed teenager drinkingThe 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. However, this misconception is why underage drinking is a problem in America and around the world. Alcoholic beverages are often the first thing teenagers turn to when trying to deal with the anxieties of adolescence. 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. Men are more likely to get into physical altercations under the influence of alcohol 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 can suffer dangerous consequences.
In addition to the health risks associated with excessive alcohol consumption, women who drink alone in bars and clubs are at increased risk of sexual assault or rape. 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 alone is a taboo in society. Somehow, social drinking is acceptable, but solitary drinking is not. The image of a man alone at a bar is associated with alcoholism, whereas the perception of friends consuming alcohol together at a party signifies good times. The media continually reiterates the message that fun and alcohol are synonymous.
There is a fine line between drinking 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, to fix an emotional problem, or to shut out the rest of the world, then drinking alone 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. Constant monitoring of the motivation and goals for drinking in solitude is necessary to prevent it from becoming a problem in the future.

Page Sources

  1. Kasey G. Creswell, Tammy Chung, Aidan G. C. Wright, Duncan B. Clark, ,Jessica J. Black, Christopher S. Martin, Personality, negative affect coping, and drinking alone: a structural equation modeling approach to examine correlates of adolescent solitary drinking, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4448111/
  2. Alcohol and depression, https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/mental-health/problems-disorders/alcohol-and-depression

Published on: March 9th, 2018

Updated on: April 10th, 2020

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.


Leave a comment

  • Grant
    Thanks, this article gave lots of useful information that helped me approach this topic with my teenager.
  • David
    Some people drink alone just to relax and avoid overspending.
  • Bob
    Im 63,i started drinking wine,then beer at 16,i am an alcoholic, I’ve quit many times,cause of jail time. Cause of drinking. I most always drink alone. I have slowed down with drinking, and am now have God with me. He stopped me twice from hanging myself cause of DEPRESSION. Look to God for help! He SAVED me.amen…
  • mukund
    Nice Article of lonely drinking