Drinking To Excess | How You Can Break The Habit
For most people, moderate drinking won’t cause serious problems. However, consuming too much alcohol can wreak havoc on your life. Here’s what you should know about excessive drinking and how to stop.
What Is Drinking To Excess?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines excessive drinking as having more than one drink per day for women and having more than two drinks per day for men.
Two of the most common types of excessive drinking are binge drinking and heavy drinking.
Binge drinking occurs when a woman has at least 4 drinks in about 2 hours and a man has at least 5 drinks in about 2 hours. Heavy drinking occurs when a woman has over 3 drinks per day or over 7 drinks per week and a man has over 4 drinks per day or over 14 drinks per week.
A standard “drink” contains about 14 grams of alcohol, which can be found in 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits.
Dangers Of Excessive Drinking
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), people who drink excessively face an increased risk of various health problems, including:
- high blood pressure
- heart disease
- pancreatitis (inflammation of the pancreas)
- liver diseases, including hepatitis (inflammation of the liver) and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
- multiple types of cancer, including breast cancer, liver cancer, and mouth cancer
- digestive problems
- depression, anxiety, and other mental health concerns
- memory loss
- burns, falls, and other physical injuries
- miscarriage and stillbirth
- weakened immune system
- alcohol poisoning (also called alcohol overdose)
- alcohol use disorder (also called alcohol addiction)
Excessive drinking can also make you moody and irritable, which may strain your relationships. In addition, because alcohol hinders your concentration, you may start struggling at work or school.
How You Can Break The Habit
Even when you understand the risks of drinking excessively, you might find it difficult to stop. In that case, try these tips:
Establish A Drinking Limit
It’s easier to control your alcohol intake when you set clear limits. As explained above, women should have no more than one drink per day, and men should have no more than two drinks per day. Drinking less than that is even better.
The best drinking limit also depends on personal factors such as age, health, and body type. Ask your doctor to help you determine your ideal limit. Then, try to stick to it as consistently as possible.
List The Risks Of Excessive Drinking
When you feel tempted to drink more than you should, it helps to remember the dangers of excessive drinking. Write a list of these dangers, and keep it somewhere accessible, such as on your phone.
Include serious health conditions as well as more common downsides, such as hangovers, mood swings, and the financial costs of alcohol.
Learn To Refuse Alcohol
Peer pressure may lead you to drink more than you normally would. You might worry that you will be judged if you refuse alcohol at a party, dinner, or other social gatherings. However, it’s important to prioritize your health.
If you don’t want a drink or you’ve already met your limit, politely refuse. Avoid people who pressure you to drink or make you feel bad for having a limit.
Many people develop unhealthy drinking habits due to boredom. That’s why you should fill your free time with healthy activities, such as going for walks, playing games, or making art. You can also spend time with loved ones who support your decision to limit your alcohol consumption.
Tell your friends and family about your efforts to cut down on alcohol. They can encourage you on your journey, and some may even join you so you feel less alone. You can also get support from your doctor, a therapist, or local support groups.
Popular support groups for people who struggle with alcohol consumption include:
Consider Addiction Treatment
If you follow the above tips and still struggle with excessive alcohol use, you may have alcohol use disorder (also called alcohol addiction). This chronic disease makes you feel unable to stop drinking alcohol no matter how much you want to. Other symptoms include:
- mood swings
- loss of interest in activities you once enjoyed
- loss of motivation
- isolation from friends and family
- tolerance, which means you need increasingly larger or more frequent drinks to feel the desired effects
- physical dependence, which means you experience unpleasant withdrawal symptoms (like anxiety and sweating) when you don’t drink alcohol
Like other diseases, alcohol use disorder requires professional treatment.
To learn about treatment options for alcohol use disorder, please contact Recovering Champions. We offer mental health counseling, medication-assisted treatment, and a variety of other personalized, evidence-based services.
Recovering Champions Editorial Team
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This page does not provide medical advice.