If you or a loved one is dealing with some type of alcohol use disorder, learning strategies on how to stop drinking or how to reduce your drinking may end up saving a life. Alcohol is a prevalent problem throughout the country. In fact, in 2015 it was estimated that over 15 million adults over 18 years old had alcohol use disorder. Alcohol is a drug, and one of the most deadly in the country.
Alcohol is one of the most dangerous substances in the country and leads to tens of thousands of deaths each year. According to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), about 88,000 Americans die each year from alcohol-related causes. Moreover, millions of others deal with binge drinking or alcoholism. In fact, chances are that you know someone who deals with some type of alcohol use disorder
April is Alcohol Awareness Month, giving people the opportunity to learn more about alcoholism, the stigma surrounding the disease, and how you can help yourself or a loved one find the treatment that they need.
Do You Have A Problem?
Alcohol use is common and ingrained in American culture. From a very early age, Americans are exposed to alcohol use through commercials, movies, television shows, talk shows, music, and more. Because of how prevalent it is in the country, it can be hard to see a problem when it arises as it is easy to brush off as a normal thing or everyday part of life.
However, alcohol is not something to be complacent or casual about. Alcohol is a serious drug and can have disastrous consequences on the body and mind. Luckily there are ways to help you understand if you do have a problem.
Identifying The Problem
According to the NIAAA, you can identify if you or a loved one has an alcohol use disorder , meaning you abuse alcohol or are dependent, by answering a few questions.
In the past year, have you:
- Had times when you ended up drinking more than you originally intended?
- Tried to cut down or stop drinking but couldn’t?
- Spent a lot of time drinking or being hungover?
- Wanted to drink so badly that it was the only thing you could think about?
- Found that drinking impeded with your ability to take care of your home or family or caused other social or professional issues?
- Continued drinking even though it was causing problems with family or friends?
- Stopped or cut back on activities that once gave you pleasure in order to drink?
- Put yourself in situations that increased your chances of getting hurt, such as driving?
- Continued drinking even though it was causing you to feel depressed, anxious or was exacerbating another health problem?
- Drank more to feel the desired effect that you wanted? Or found that the usual number of drinks had less of an effect than it previously did?
- Experienced withdrawal symptoms such as shakiness, restlessness, nausea, sweating, or more after the effects of alcohol wore off?
Answering “Yes” to some of these symptoms indicates alcohol use disorder:
- Mild: Presence of two to three symptoms
- Moderate: Presence of four to five symptoms
- Severe: Presence of six or more symptoms
Looking at alcohol use in this way can help you decide if you or a loved one dealing with some from of alcoholism.
While alcohol use disorder generally deals with consistent drinking over a period of time, binge drinking refers to someone who drinks an excessive amount here and there. Binge drinking is different than normal alcohol use disorder but is still considered alcohol abuse and can lead to major consequences and even death if not dealt with. It should be noted that most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent, they may just be doing this due to societal or social norms.
Binge drinking is associated with a number of health problems including unintentional injuries like car crashes, violence, cancer, chronic diseases, memory problems, and more.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention defines binge drinking as five or more servings of alcohol for men or four or more servings for women during a two-hour period. According to the CDC, binge drinking costs the United States almost a quarter trillion dollars each year due to losses in workplace productivity, health care and criminal justice costs, and other expenses.
Tips To Reduce or stop drinking
Understanding that there is a problem is the first step to solving it. There are many self-help strategies that you can employ to help curb how often or how much you drink.
Keep Track Of Drinking
One thing that you can do open your eyes to how much you are drinking is by keeping track of your drinks during the night or throughout the week. Carrying a drinking tracker card, making check marks on a piece of paper or calendar, or using your phone to keep track are all easy ways to keep an eye on how much you’ve had to drink at a given time. Moreover, understanding how much and how often you drink will allow you to see how much money you are wasting on alcohol. For some, seeing the financial commitment to their habit is enough to make them want to change their ways.
If you are looking to reduce the amount of drinks that you have, just set goals for yourself. Tell yourself that you won’t drink past a certain amount. Implementing low-risk drinking limit leads to the lowest rates of alcohol-related problems. A low-risk drinking limit is defined as no more than four drinks on any day for men AND no more than 14 drinks throughout the week. Similarly, the low-risk drinking limit for women is no more than three drinks on any day AND no more than seven drinks throughout the week.
Generally, if drinking has become a problem in your life, it takes up a lot of your time and causes you to take time away from healthy activities like exercise and social relationships. However, by using your time differently to make these alternatives a priority, it can cut how often you drink and, rather, encourage you to do something more productive, social, and engaging. Whether it is exercise, being around family and friends, sports, reading, or some other activity, these are all healthy alternatives to alcohol use that can improve your well-being.
Practice Saying “No”
Even if you successfully reduce how much or how often you drink you are not in the clear. Just by being in social situations and and around people, you will be offered opportunities to drink. When this happens politely saying “no, thanks” is the best way to avoid falling into a downward spiral. If this situation does come up, refuse quickly, any hesitation will give you time to think of excuses that you can use to drink again.
Triggers and Urges
Similarly, after quitting drinking, you will experience urges to drink once again when exposed to things or situations that trigger a craving. However, by learning from these triggers, you can work to actively avoid these scenarios and continue limiting your drinking. Fortunately, urges to drink are short-lived and can be controlled if you recognize them. And, over time, you will learn that the urges to drink will not be as strong and you will gain the confidence to deal with these cravings.
Asking For Help
Stopping drinking or even just cutting back can be stressful and hard to do. Sometimes, enlisting the help of friends and family to support you will not only encourage you to stick to your goals but hold you accountable. For some, it can be hard to reach out to someone about a problem you have, but if you are committed to change and want to live a healthier life, reaching out to someone close is one of the best ways to help your situation.
There are many strategies that you can employ to cut back on drinking, but for any of them to work you need to show a commitment to changing. You need to understand that your drinking doesn't just affect you but everyone you are in contact with including your significant other, friends, children, extended family, and more.
Finding Alcohol Treatment
Learning how to stop drinking or reduce your drinking at home can be helpful, but if the problem is severe enough, the condition may require the help of an alcohol treatment center. Getting sober can be dangerous and t can even be deadly if done at home without the help of a medical professional. However, alcohol rehabilitation treatment generally involves medically assisted detoxification to ensure that patients safely go through the withdrawal symptoms, this also allows patients to focus on other aspects of treatment without withdrawal impeding this.
While you may recognize that you or a close one has a problem with alcohol and needs treatment, you may not know exactly what to look for or where to look when trying to find the right treatment facility. Luckily, the NIAAA has some tips for those who are trying to find some support and treatment.
There are a few specific things to look for when seeking out a drug or alcohol rehabilitation facility, including:
- Qualifications — Look at who works in the treatment center and be sure that they are properly qualified. Specifically, look for advanced degrees like Master’s and PhD's.
- Assessment — Early in the treatment process, an addiction professional should assess the patient’s abuse issues and ask about a number of things including substances, general health, mental health, housing, social support, and more.
- Treatment Plan — After an assessment, health professionals will work to develop an individualized treatment plan.
Follow-Up — Following detox and residential care, good treatment centers have plans in place to help patients following discharge, such as access to an outpatient facility.
Some things that you should AVOID when looking for a treatment center include:
- It is a bad sign if a provider only asks about drug and alcohol abuse during an assessment. Substance abuse is an incredibly nuanced issue and requires the same type of complexity to treat it.
- Avoid treatment centers that claim to have a “cure” or “one-size-fits-all” approach. This does not exist. People are different and require different treatment plans.
- Avoid treatment programs that reject the use of medications completely, this is a sign that they ignore some evidence-based treatment approaches.
To make your search easier, the NIAAA has a database available to help search for addiction therapists, alcohol treatment programs, and addiction doctors.
The navigator makes the process much more simple by finding a location that is close to you and shows what the facility has to offer including outpatient and residential treatment, alcohol use disorder medication, payment assistance, and more.
Alcohol Awareness Month is a great time to learn more about the alcoholism and how addiction can impact your life and the lives around you. Alcoholism is a hard thing to come to terms with, but there are ways that you can fight this addiction. Reducing alcohol intake and seeking treatment is one of the best ways to help yourself and improve your well-being and overall health. While some may wonder how to stop drinking without the help of a care facility and even try, this can prove to be difficult and even dangerous situation if done incorrectly. If the problem is too severe, it is best to reach out to a treatment facility.
Landmark Recovery is one drug and alcohol treatment center that is here to help. Landmark offers patients through the use of detoxification, residential and outpatient care, evidence-based treatment, and more. Landmark can give patients the tools they need to avoid relapse and educate themselves on the specifics of addiction. If you or a loved on is struggling with alcoholism and can’t figure out how to stop drinking, please visit our website and reach out to our admissions team to learn more about a personalized treatment plan to help you through this problem.