Binge drinking is defined by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) as having five or more drinks for men, and four or more drinks for women, within about a two-hour timeframe. In a 2015 report from the NIAAA, almost 27% of adults 18 and older said they had engaged in binge drinking within the past month. And another report in the same year, by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, established that nearly 40% of college students between the ages of 18 and 22 reported they’d engaged in binge drinking in the past month. While binge drinking and alcohol dependence are two very different issues, binge drinking still carries with it very negative physical, emotional and interpersonal consequences. Some of these negative consequences include interference with brain development, liver problems, injuries, increased risk of alcohol use disorders, sexual assaults and even death. If you or a loved one wants to reduce the amount of alcohol you consume, the following tactics could help you determine how to stop drinking excessively.
- Change Your Environment. Identify triggers and try to limit the amount of time you spend in places and with people where drinking is the central focus. Limit interaction with other binge drinkers so the temptation to drink heavily is lessened.
- Use Standard Drink Measurements. You can learn how to stop drinking more than you meant to by knowing how much you are actually drinking. Understand and adhere to standard drink sizes. For instance, one beer is 12 ounces, one glass of wine is 8 ounces, and one drink of liquor is 1 ounce. Try not to drink out of glasses that hold more than the standard amount to avoid miscalculating how much alcohol you’ve actually consumed. Drinking one “big beer” or one “double” mixed drink at a bar or restaurant counts as two drinks, not one.
- Set SMART Goals. SMART goals are Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-oriented. Since controlling alcohol intake can be challenging once drinking has begun, use SMART goals to detail how to stop drinking when you intend to. For instance, rather than vowing not to “overdo it this weekend,” set a goal to “not drink on any other day this week but Saturday, and have no more than three alcoholic beverages that night.” One way to adhere to set limits is to bring only enough cash for the requisite number of drinks and leave credit and debit cards at home.
- Drink Non-Alcoholic Beverages. Drinking is social and may make reducing alcohol consumption difficult if you or your loved one enjoys engaging in social activities that involve alcohol. Try to reprogram yourself, to learn how to stop drinking alcohol during social events, even though you are still drinking beverages with others. One way to do this is to drink non-alcoholic beverages, or “virgin” versions of your favorite cocktails. You can also reduce the amount you are drinking by substituting every other drink with water, soda, or other non-alcoholic beverage.
- Reward Yourself. Treat yourself to non-alcohol related rewards for reaching goals, to give yourself positive reinforcement for sticking to limits.
- Keep a Drinking Journal. Keep a journal of places, dates and quantities of alcohol consumed, as well as accompanying physical and emotional feelings. This way you can see how far you have come and you’ll be reminded why you’ve decided to reduce alcohol intake.
- Enlist Help. Get help from friends and family to keep you on track and lend support when you need it.
- Consult a Doctor. Talk to your doctor to determine if past binge drinking episodes may have created or exacerbated medical conditions. You may also want to ask your doctor if he or she has any suggestions about how to stop drinking excessively.
Tempering binge drinking can be a difficult task, but it is not impossible with a good strategy, firm limits and Sources: https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking – Drinking Levels Defined https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics – Alcohol Facts and Statistics