Week of:
Oct 14, 2011

Alcohol on the brain

Dear Alice,

I was wondering the rate at which alcohol induces brain damage; I know that over a course of years damage occurs, but does anything happen after about a month of drinking on weekends?

Friend misusing alcohol

Dear Alice,

Last year, I became very good friends with a guy on my floor. He was a little out of the ordinary in the way he dressed, as well as in some of his opinions and habits. I had the feeling that he did drink more than he should, and he also did pot. I did not worry too much about it because it appeared to be more of a lifestyle choice than an addiction, and it did not cause him major troubles.

Unfortunately, he started to have academic problems. He did not do his work, missed classes, and eventually exams as well. I still did not relate these things to his alcohol and drug habits, and I hoped that once he got over the adjustment everyone needed to make in freshman year, he would be fine. Well, he wasn't. He did not come back to school this fall, and when I called him, I learned that he had gone through a lot that summer. He was diagnosed with depression and a cocaine addiction, put on Prozac, and sent to therapy. At that point, I thought that he was on the right track because he was also going to get a job and planning to take classes at a nearby college.

However, when he came to visit me a month later, he had already had two beers before he even came here and got more and more drunk as the evening progressed. I would not let him drive home, but he ignored my warnings and left anyway. I was very disturbed because a friend of his had just been in a drunk driving accident. I was very mad at him, told him clearly that I will always be his friend but prefer not to talk to him or see him if he showed up drunk again. He did not call for a while and neither did I. When he called me yesterday and I told him that I thought he should do something about his alcohol problem, he kept repeating his excuses, that he drinks because he is Irish, that he doesn't care if he dies early as long as he had fun in life, etc. On the other hand, he can't find a job and seems to be very depressed. I want to help him, but I don't know how. Any ideas?

— Concerned