Abstinence from alcohol is the most effective way to avoid alcohol abuse and addiction, but in the U.S., alcohol is easily accessible and included in many traditions. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says that if you choose to drink, drink in moderation. However, not everyone who drinks can stop at just one or two drinks, which puts many of these individuals at risk for alcohol addiction.
If you meet any risk factors for alcohol abuse, or often have difficulty controlling your drinking behaviors, here are six effective ways to reduce your risk and avoid becoming addicted.
1. Avoid Starting Early in Life
The earlier in life you start drinking, the higher your risk will be for alcohol abuse and addiction at some point in your life, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). In a survey of 43,000 adults in the U.S., researchers found that 47% of those who developed alcoholism at some point met the diagnostic criteria for alcohol dependence by the age of 21 years.
If you are under the legal drinking age, delay drinking for as long as possible — even after you turn 21. Your brain continues developing throughout your early 20s and can be affected by large amounts of alcohol. If you have children, avoid giving them even just a sip of alcohol, if possible.
2. Keep Alcohol Out of Your Home
If you don’t have any alcohol in your home, then you can’t drink it. Keeping alcohol in your home increases the likelihood of you resorting to alcohol use at times you feel bored or stressed, even when you have plenty of other options for eliminating boredom and stress (such as exercising or listening to relaxing music).
If you do enjoy having an occasional drink, consider buying it in small amounts instead of in bulk. Some stores allow you to buy single beers and pints of wine as opposed to six-packs and standard-sized bottles of wine.
3. Know When to Stop Drinking
The NIAAA recommends limiting yourself to up to one drink per day if you’re a woman and up to two drinks per day if you’re a man. At times you drink alcohol, hold yourself accountable to this recommendation and avoid drinking more than you should.
Drinking more than the recommended amount of alcohol during one occasion can lead to intoxication and increase your risk for accidents and high-risk behaviors such as unsafe sex and drunk driving. If you do have more than one or two drinks, stop drinking when you feel buzzed to prevent your tolerance level from increasing.
4. Find Healthy Friends
Environment and peer pressure are common risk factors for addiction, reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). Therefore, spending time with people who drink regularly or who abuse alcohol may increase your risk for alcohol addiction.
Try to spend time with people who have a healthy mindset and who like engaging in healthy activities such as hiking, cooking nutritious meals, and spending time outdoors. Healthy individuals with positive attitudes can help you steer clear of alcohol abuse and may even introduce you to fun activities that don’t involve alcohol.
5. Address Trauma
Dealing with trauma can be extremely difficult and can easily lead to problems with drug and alcohol abuse if you fail to join a support network or seek professional treatment. Guilt, fear, and anxiety are some of the many symptoms associated with trauma that can influence you to drink if your goal is to make your symptoms go away. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs reports that three-fourths of people who survive abuse or violent traumatic events have drinking problems, as do one-third of people who survive traumatic accidents, illness, or disasters.
If you have experienced trauma and are having a difficult time recovering, ask your doctor for a referral to a counselor or therapist who can help. Trauma is a common risk factor for addiction and is often treated at drug and alcohol rehab centers using trauma-focused cognitive-behavioral therapy and support group therapy.
6. Educate Yourself About Alcohol Abuse
If you have a clear understanding of how alcohol addiction can negatively affect your life, you may stay motivated to avoid developing a serious drinking problem. Financial problems, relationship problems, lowered work productivity, and worsened physical and mental health are some of the many highly unappealing effects of alcohol abuse and addiction.
Take time to educate yourself about alcohol abuse and what could happen if you develop a drinking problem that spirals out of control. The NIAAA and NIDA are ideal resources for those who want to learn more about alcohol addiction, and they feature up-to-date statistics, research, studies, and information about the latest treatments for alcohol use disorder, such as medical alcohol detox.
The more informed you are, the lower your risk will be for developing alcohol addiction. If at any point you think you may have a drinking problem, consult with our support consultants at Baystate Recovery Services for help or explore our treatment options at Baystate Recovery Center.