How Much Vodka is Too Much?
July 28, 2013 3:59 PM   Subscribe

My roommate drinks a half gallon of vodka a week. I know it's a lot but is it so much that I should consider an intervention?
posted by zzazazz to Health & Fitness (35 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Needs a lot more information. Does it affect his job, his family, his friends, you?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 4:03 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

That's about a mickey a day, or 13 oz, which is roughly 13 drinks. Every day.

Is this binge drinking at night, is it constant sipping throughout the day? Is your roommate missing work or other engagements? How are they generally? I find it difficult to believe that they're not a wreck generally, unless they've achieved functional alcoholism, which is where they need a high level of alcohol in their system to function normally.

Regardless, yes, consider an intervention. Maybe not the high drama, corner them with family, friends and love intervention, but at least sitting them down and seeing what they think about it.
posted by fatbird at 4:05 PM on July 28, 2013

Think of it this way. A shot is about two ounces of liquor. Now, if you drink slowly and pace yourself, liquor is not going to hit you as hard as a shot does (which is why shots are so problematic). But there are 64 ounces in a half gallon. So, 32 shots. Spread over the course of a week, that's a little more than 4 shots (or a cup) of liquor per day.

Which sounds like a lot to me, but as long as your roommate is pacing herself and "holding her liquor", I don't know that it's intervention worthy. If your roommate seems perpetually extremely drunk (staggering, slurring, etc) or engages in poor choices when drinking, or is doing stuff like projectile vomiting all over the living room, yeah, intervention time. But if your roommate just drinks more heavily than is optimal, I think you should leave it alone.
posted by Sara C. at 4:07 PM on July 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Some people who appear to be consuming a lot of liquor, are actually pouring a good deal of it down the drain, in the form of stale drinks they spill, forget about or go to sleep over, or as dregs they toss down the drain when making a fresh drink. My raging alcoholic second wife probably wasted 1/3 to 1/2 of all the liquor she bought this way. Which was just a cryin' damn shame when she was still flush enough to be pouring 18 year old single malt Scotch as her main form of caloric intake and hydration, just before her second stint in rehab.
posted by paulsc at 4:15 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, this is too much and yes you should be concerned. Think about it this way: the standard pour for something like a gin and tonic is 2 ounces of booze. Your friend is drinking the equivalent of four and a half gin and tonics (9 ounces of vodka) every day, seven days a week. Thats something like 600 calories a day just from booze. This isn't necessarily a problem, but it is a lot of booze. To put this in some context: I have been involved in the cocktail revival since its earliest days, and I occasionally write about booze and cocktails. I have been known to have as many as 15 cocktails in one very long night. So I am drinking-positive. But a half gallon a week is more than I could handle on a regular basis. Also, the fact that its vodka suggest your roommate is drinking it for the effect (i.e., using it as a drug).
posted by slkinsey at 4:16 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

This is your roommate, usually a temporary living situation. Why is this your business?

Yes, 13 drinks per day is a lot. 1 cup of alcohol per day is a lot. Likely not healthy.

If this person's Behaviour is impacting you, that's something to talk about.

If my very best friend in the world was drinking that much, I'd be asking her why and trying to support her more. I guess I think an intervention is a very judgmental attack and I don't see how it's helpful.
posted by Heart_on_Sleeve at 4:16 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's about a mickey a day, or 13 oz, which is roughly 13 drinks. Every day.

This is poor math. A gallon is 128 ounces. Half a gallon is 64. 64/7 is 9.14. Since a shot is 1.5 ounces generally this is about 6 drinks a night, not 13. That is still a lot.

I can go through a handle in a week, but I frequently don't. I enjoy drinking, hold a steady job, don't center my events around alcohol or plan how to get my next drink. However, some people who drink that much do.

Maybe ask your roommate? It's less the amount consumed than why and what it does to your life.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 4:18 PM on July 28, 2013 [9 favorites]

Also, the fact that its vodka suggest your roommate is drinking it for the effect (i.e., using it as a drug).

Or that OP's roommate is Russian. I don't know that the quantity is common in Slavic cultures, but drinking Vodka neat is.
posted by Sara C. at 4:19 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think reality TV has done a major disservice in that it's created this idea that THERE MUST BE AN INTERVENTION!!! There are alcoholics in my life. They know that they have a problem with alcohol. They don't want to get better. I try not to enable them. Maybe I'm a monster, but I think someone needs to want to sober up. You can't force anyone to confront his or her problems.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 4:33 PM on July 28, 2013 [32 favorites]

That's nearly 2 liters of vodka per week. Or 2.5 75 centiletre bottles per week, or 9 30 ml shots per day. 9 shots per day is well on the way to developing a lifelong potentially fatal problem.
posted by singingfish at 4:33 PM on July 28, 2013

Or that OP's roommate is Russian. I don't know that the quantity is common in Slavic cultures, but drinking Vodka neat is.

Jesus, no. The quantity may or may not be common, but it's a social drink. You don't just sit in your room and chug vodka all day long, no matter how Russian you are.
posted by Nomyte at 4:37 PM on July 28, 2013 [10 favorites]

Maybe I'm a monster, but I think someone needs to want to sober up.

I sort of agree with this. On the one hand, this is obviously not healthy in the long term. On the other, there are limits to how much you can do unless the other person wants to change. I guess I might just say "hey, I notice you are drinking a lot lately. Are you OK?" If they want to talk about it, great, if they brush you off, that's their right. As long as they are paying their bills and keeping up with the apartment, you don't have a lot of stake in the situation (unless this roommate is a friend, but that should make the first question more productive). I used to have a roommate who drank a lot but did his job and kept up on the apartment, and I really didn't have a lot of cause to complain. Later he started dating a huge jerk and started doing a lot of clubbing and doing drugs, but he moved out, so that was that.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:38 PM on July 28, 2013 [4 favorites]

"There are questions about the long-term effectiveness of interventions for those addicted to drugs or alcohol." There's a huge difference between "Is this person drinking too much?" (probably, given the data offered) and "Should I consider an intervention?" Would whatever form of intervention you are considering be effective? Do you have "standing" to do so? Do you have "standing" over others who are more central to this person's life? Present your concerns directly to the roommate as regards how the behavior directly impacts your life and/or relationship. Prepare for how that might effect your relationship/situation in the future. Go from there.
posted by Morrigan at 4:40 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Sorry, hit "post" too soon -- the deal is -- you cannot save anyone. You must look out for yourself. Not in a jerky way, but mindful of your own needs, health, and safety. If this roommate is important to you, you can ask them why they are drinking as much as they are, but for a more casual roommate, you are more likely to get hostility than sobriety.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:41 PM on July 28, 2013

If you'd like to approach this from a slightly less confrontational point of view, you might want to let them know that if they're taking tylenol for hangovers the next day they will literally and without the slightest crumb of exaggeration destroy their liver. I am speaking from personal loss-of-liver-function experience.
posted by elizardbits at 4:45 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

I think someone needs to want to sober up. You can't force anyone to confront his or her problems.

This is true, but it doesn't mean you can't try to have a conversation with them that goes along the lines of "I think you drink way more than is healthy to drink. What's up with that? Can I give you a hand doing something about it? I'll happily back off and never mention it again if you say so, but please know that I'm happy to help if you want to change things."
posted by fatbird at 4:47 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Only consider an intervention if his alcohol consumption causes him to act in a manner that is unpleasant to you.
posted by GlassHeart at 4:48 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yikes, unless it's affecting you personally? MYOB
If it is affecting you personally? I'd find a new roommate.
There are very few relationships that can withstand other people's advice about alcohol.
I would only bring it up with a close friend or relative.
posted by Snazzy67 at 4:48 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: As far as work, he doesn't work, except for a part time job he goes to for about four hours once a week. He is living off his savings right now.

He isn't a problem but I was concerned because it seems like he can't go to bed at night unless he drinks enough to slur his speech.

I should also add that he goes out a couple times a week and gets faced so he is drinking more than a half gallon a week.
posted by zzazazz at 4:55 PM on July 28, 2013

He isn't breaking the law. He's paying his share of the rent.

He probably wouldn't appreciate seeing this post.

Mind your own business.
posted by oceanjesse at 5:01 PM on July 28, 2013 [2 favorites]

Unless this guy is for best friend, I'd find a new roommate.
posted by slkinsey at 5:01 PM on July 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

Whether or not this guy's an alcoholic, he's doing damage to himself at a pack-of-cigarettes-a-day order of magnitude. If you can find a way to make it your business -- such as he asks you, or he causes you a problem given you occasion to say your piece -- it would be a kindness to his liver, to say the least him, to make that point.
posted by MattD at 5:04 PM on July 28, 2013

A lot of missing info here: Roommate's age, your relationship with them, etc. (As other posters have pointed out.)

Should you consider an intervention? Probably not. Should you have a conversation with your roommate when they're sober? Probably. If they're unreceptive, then drop it.
posted by jzb at 5:07 PM on July 28, 2013

Yeah, on the 'because it's vodka it's about the effect' thing - some of us loathe the taste of wine/beer. It's taken me nearly twenty* years but I'm finally drinking wine on occasion, and cider (after a significant effort from wine-drinking friends) but otherwise it's vodka and gin. Simply because I don't much like the taste of the 'acceptable' drinks - I've always joked that I look like an alcoholic when we're out because everyone gets a beer and I get vodka, but I dislike the taste. Which, y'know, back when I was an alcoholic was not so funny.

That doesn't take away from the fact that the amount being drunk is a problem, but just because it's vodka doesn't make it a drinking problem. I think interventions are junk, but a chat might be a good idea. Sometimes people don't realise how much they are drinking until it's pointed out (a friend worked out that him and his missus were drinking four glasses of wine a night on average, but only after setting the bottles out for recycling - until then they'd gone straight into the bin).

*That made me sad because I'm only 32.
posted by geek anachronism at 5:10 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not your problem. Start looking for a new roomie when your lease is coming up, though.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:10 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

A drunken roommate who wasn't a close friend would worry me for pragmatic reasons: could he light a candle and knock it over? Could he put food on the stove to cook, then pass out? Stumble and kick over a space heater? You see where I'm going with this.
posted by zadcat at 5:12 PM on July 28, 2013 [5 favorites]

This is poor math. A gallon is 128 ounces. Half a gallon is 64. 64/7 is 9.14. Since a shot is 1.5 ounces generally this is about 6 drinks a night, not 13. That is still a lot.

Which is about a six pack of beer every night.

People seem to get weird and squicky about hard alcohol. I have several friends who drink 6 pints nearly every night, and many others who drink a bottle or two of wine.

I'm not saying that's any less bad for you, but for some reason people in general seem to view that as more of just "having a couple beers after work" rather than HOLY SHIT THEY'RE DRINKING THEMSELVES TO DEATH.

I've also lived with a couple different guys who were power drinkers like this, and many more who would get faced 3-5 times a week but occasionally have sober days.

It can be "a concern" or annoying, but other than being drunk does he do anything else annoying? does he regularly blast music until 3am and pass out with it playing? does he constantly invite his friends over to drink with him in his room while doing so? is he always wandering around the house late at night drunk making weird noises and bumping in to shit and smashing around in the kitchen to make drunchies?

As far as annoying or concerning roommate behavior, this is pretty low. Like at the "find a new roommate or move when you have the chance" end not the "EJECT EJECT MUST SOLVE NOW PULL UP AHHHH *EXPLOSION*" end of the spectrum.

Like, to the point that if this concerns you that much you probably haven't had an actually concern-worthy or shitty roommate yet.
posted by emptythought at 5:27 PM on July 28, 2013 [8 favorites]

Yes, that's enough alcohol to be of concern. Yes, you are allowed to be concerned about a fellow human being because they are a fellow human being, regardless as to whether that person is a roomate, best friend, bosom buddy or casual acquaintance. The degree of intimacy of your relationship is not really a factor in whether or not you should feel concern; it is, however, a factor in what would be a useful or effective response. There is no reason you shouldn't, at least, mention that you are concerned about the amount of alcohol this person consumes. You never know if it might spark some useful self-reflection on their part. It isn't your responsibility to make this person stop drinking, however (nor would it be possible for you to do so), so if they don't respond to your comments that may be where you have to leave things.

elizardbit's comment about tylenol, by the way, is very much to the point. If your roomie does take tylenol that may well be a useful way in to a gentle general comment about how much alcohol they're consuming.
posted by yoink at 5:58 PM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

The question isn't whether this is a lot. The OP said: "I know it's a lot but is it so much that I should consider an intervention?" And the answer is no. Don't try to change your roommate. Change your living situation — if it bothers you.
posted by John Cohen at 6:10 PM on July 28, 2013

He isn't a problem

Um? That's a lot of booze, for sure, but if it's not creating a problem, why not leave it alone?
posted by trip and a half at 6:27 PM on July 28, 2013

That is a lot of vodka. I don't think that would be in any reasonable concept of safe drinking. It is good of you to be concerned, but, as has been said above, it's unlikely that you are going to be able to "fix" a person who is drinking like that by sitting them down for a serious talk. But it also seems unsatisfying to just say "not my problem", concerning someone you share a living space with, and care about, at least some, presumably.

I think the most you can do is to express your concern and then let it go. Don't expect that this will be well-received or that it will change anything. Some people who drink real heavily pull back from it, some become alcoholics. You can't really control the outcome. And I don't think you should stage an intervention on someone you have a casual relationship with; it's inappropriate, and it's sort of unclear if it even works when someone's closest people do it.
posted by thelonius at 6:29 PM on July 28, 2013 [3 favorites]

having done some (other) dangerous things with drugs, it's okay to say "please don't die i'd miss you" but man it's not like the guy doesn't know it's a bad idea. if the roommate doesn't care about you it's a total non-starter
posted by atoxyl at 6:44 PM on July 28, 2013 [1 favorite]

TBH, it doesn't sound like you know him very well or socialize together much. Attempting an intervention when you lack standing with him is probably futile and might just drive him to hide his behavior better or drink in bars.

Instead, how 'bout working on your friendship? Can you invite him to do some things with you (doesn't have to be all dry activities either)? Engage him in conversation more often? Get to know his family, friends and drinking buddies? If you get to know each other, your standing and insights will both improve and you'll be more effective should it become necessary and appropriate to broach the topic.
posted by carmicha at 10:55 PM on July 28, 2013

This would be a deal breaker for me as far as a roommate situation is concerned. I'd bail out when it becomes feasible.

Increased drinking usually doesn't get better. It will start impacting your daily life soon enough.

If you think he'd be open to talking about it, you might open the conversation up with, "It seems to me that you've been drinking a lot lately. What do you think?"

More than likely you'll get a hostile response, but you never know. Be prepared to accompany your roommate to AA if he's interested, but don't be shocked if he's not.

Other than that, start looking for new digs. Those savings will come to an end soon enough and you don't want that to be YOUR problem.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:44 AM on July 29, 2013

Increased drinking usually doesn't get better. It will start impacting your daily life soon enough.

Did OP say it was increased? I've lived with both functional and non-functional drunks and it was very clear which were which.
posted by atoxyl at 3:16 PM on July 29, 2013

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