I have a friend at school who is one of the best friends I've ever had. From the moment I showed up on campus and met him, we've been practically inseparable. We share a lot of interests, and one of those interests is definitely drinking.

I don't know if I should say this, but we've been drinking and attending parties since we were freshmen. And we made the usual mistakes, but, for the most part, I think we handled everything pretty well. We still got good grades, worked out and stayed in shape, treated people right, and all that good stuff.

But I feel like my friend has been different lately. I don't know if we're drinking any more than we always have — maybe he is and I'm not, I don't know — but he's been making a lot of bad decisions lately. He's missed class with hangovers (I get hangovers, too, but I make it to class), he’s gotten in fights with friends when drunk (verbal ones, but still), and he’s skipped an important family event to go to a party (his parents called me, all upset). I don't want my relationship with my friend to change, but I'm concerned. Experts, what should I do?

It sounds as if your friend's poor decision-making is because of another factor. It also sounds like you may already realize what that factor is, even if you're not quite ready to admit it yet.

Drinking is unhealthy for all sorts of reasons. Binge-drinking sessions of the sort that you've described — the kind that give you nasty hangovers — can hurt your liver and lead to long-term health problems. They can also, of course, affect your decision-making. Your friend may be acting differently from how you remember, but that doesn't mean that the ongoing boozing is unrelated. It's quite likely the very thing that's to blame.

You don't need us to tell you that drinking heavily in college is common. You apparently do, however, need us to tell you that it's still terrible for you. And while some people can graduate and move on with their lives and never drink to excess again, others aren't so lucky. Addiction is a disease, the experts at the Canadian Centre for Addictions explain, and nothing is fair about it. It strikes some people but not others.

So maybe you think nothing of drinking heavily on a weekend and then staying sober all week, though shrugging it off won't spare you the dangers. Maybe you can enjoy drinking and still never be tempted to choose it over a family outing. Maybe you’re still drinking the exact same amount as you drank last year or the year before. But that doesn't mean that your friend is in the same boat. It's possible that he craves drinks more often and in larger volumes, and it's already clear that he's willing to choose booze over other priorities.

You should consider talking to your friend about his habits — and you should consider examining your own, too. Choose to control your drinking; if that proves difficult, seek help for a possible addiction. Alcoholism is frightening common in the United States, Canada, and other similar countries, and nobody can be sure of being immune. Choosing to drink makes addiction a possibility, and ongoing mistakes and a seeming dependence on booze are a bad sign.

It’s not too late for you and your friend to choose a better life. If your friend is able to admit that he has a problem, he can seek treatment. Again, you should do the same if you have any trouble cutting back or quitting alcohol yourself. We wish both the best to you and your friend.

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