Problem Drinking

Alcohol is one of the most widely used, and also abused drugs in the world. When taken in strict moderation, drinking is relatively benign and may even offer a number of health benefits, such as reducing the risk of heart disease. But when abused, alcohol has the power to wreak havoc on all the body’s major organs as well as create a number of difficulties in the life a person addicted to alcohol. There were approximately 75,000 alcohol-related fatalities in the US in 2012 alone. If you’re concerned about your health or the problems caused in your life by drinking, it may be time to consider either quitting drinking or attempting moderation…

Moderation is an attempt to reduce alcohol consumption to a rate that does not interfere with your life or put you at risk for major health complications. It is a popular first choice for people who decide they need to change their drinking, but it is certainly not the best option for everyone as many find it difficult to sustain. The amount of drinking implied by moderation may be different for everyone. There are different guidelines for what constitutes moderate drinking available, which typically vary by country to country, but the ultimate goal is to find an amount that doesn’t cause problems for your life, mind or body. It is recommended that before attempting moderation you attempt a period of abstinence of at least one month.

If your drinking is very heavy, and/or has been daily over months or years you may experience withdrawal symptoms upon drastically changing your intake. Many people who quit drinking or attempt moderation begin by tapering down to a manageable level over several weeks to avoid significant withdrawal. If in reducing your intake you experience symptoms such as tremors, hallucinations, confusion, changes in heart rate or a seizure it’s important to seek medical attention immediately as these could be signs of a potentially fatal form of withdrawal known as delirium tremens, which can be managed with early pharmacological intervention.

When moderating your drinking, there are some helpful hints you should keep in mind to reduce the chances of going overboard:

- Try to eat before or during a drinking session. This reduces the rate at which alcohol enters the blood stream.

- If going out, only take with you a certain amount of money and leave credit or debit cards at home.

- Drink water before alcohol to avoid drinking too fast due to thirst.

- Choose lower alcohol by volume drinks, or upgrade yourself to something more expensive. Cheap, strong booze lends itself to excessive consumption.

- Try to avoid events where drinking is the main focus.

- Try to have something to do the morning after as motivation to take it easy.

- Avoid shots.

- Don’t keep a glass in your hand all night. Set it down.

- Be prepared with an excuse for anyone who may try to encourage you to drink in excess of your limits.

- Remember that nobody has ever woken up regretting how little they drank the night before.


If your drinking is affecting your life in a way that’s becoming more than a minor concern, or if you have struggled with moderation in the past, you may truly be addicted to alcohol and abstinence may be a better goal. It may be best to begin by writing a list of all the reasons alcohol is making life difficult and your motivations for giving it up. Afterward, it’s important to determine your individual triggers for excessive drinking. Do you go overboard in the company of certain friends? When you’re stressed? When you’re alone? Depending on the individual reasons you establish, you will need to take time to develop strategies for dealing with each trigger. Make an effort to discover interests and hobbies that don’t involve alcohol and incorporate them into your life. Boredom is a common trigger for relapse. No matter what, focus only on avoiding alcohol on the day at hand. Worrying about the future today can make the task seem daunting and insurmountable.

Many people abstaining from alcohol prefer to seek the help of a support group or therapist. Your physician should be able to provide you with information on either, and the internet is also an excellent resource for finding local recovery groups. In addition to Alcoholics Anonymous, other popular organizations include Rational Recovery, SMART, and LifeRing. There are even a number of online forums dedicated to recovery if group therapy doesn’t fit your needs. Try a number of groups and find what works best for you.

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