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How to Prevent Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

Drinking too much alcohol can take its toll on daily life, relationships, and work performance. While an occasional drink is acceptable, excessive drinking can lead to alcohol use disorders (AUD) such as dependence, alcohol abuse, and addiction. Fortunately, there are effective ways to prevent alcohol addiction. 

Preventing Excessive Alcohol Use

Most alcoholism prevention programs focus on opening an honest line of communication between friends and loved ones and avoiding risk factors for alcohol problems. This proactive approach to prevent alcohol use disorder works for underage drinkers and adults who are still in the early stages of alcoholism.

Individuals with a family history of alcohol-related substance abuse are four times more likely to develop alcohol addiction.

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Who Is At Risk Of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)? 

While alcohol addiction can affect anyone regardless of age or gender, certain factors increase a person’s risk of developing alcohol dependence. People who are at risk for alcohol problems include:

  • A family history of alcohol use disorder (AUD)
  • Those who belong to families, cultures, and sub-cultures where drinking is traditional or encouraged, such as college
  • Living in an environment with easy accessibility to alcoholic drinks
  • Unhealthy drinking patterns – drinking more than 12 to 15 drinks per week
  • Regular binge drinking – five or more drinks on one occasion
  • Mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression
  • Those with high-stress jobs or extreme pressure at work, like people in the military
  • Adolescents and young adults in their with low self-esteem and high peer pressure
  • High levels of emotional stress – such as losing a loved one

Alcohol Use Statistics

Age is a strong motivating factor for the development of alcohol use disorder. Alcohol consumption usually begins when a person is in their late teens to early twenties and peaks once they are in their late to mid-twenties.1 

People in their late adulthood are more likely to develop alcoholism. However, teenagers who start drinking before age 15 are 5.7 times more likely to become an alcoholic by age 26.2 

Teenagers may also struggle with alcohol use disorder. According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health, there are about 414,000 adolescents aged 12 to 17 with AUD.3

Individuals with a family history of alcohol addiction are four times more likely to develop alcohol addiction.

University of Rochester Medical Center

85.6

Percent

Of Americans ages 18 and older reported that they drank alcohol in their lifetime.

25.8

Percent

Of Americans ages 18 and older reported that they engaged in binge drinking in the last month.

14.5

Million

people have alcohol use disorder (AUD).

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Alcohol Addiction Prevention Begins with Teens and Young Adults

Adolescents and young adults make up the largest percentage of people with AUD. Of the five alcoholic subtype groups, the young adult and young antisocial subtypes account for over 52 percent of all alcoholics.

Adolescents and young adults have a higher risk of succumbing to peer pressure and developing addictive drinking behaviors.

Preventive methods and programs are essential in the prevention of alcoholism among teens and older adults. To accomplish this, alcohol and behavioral education should start at home. Parents and family members must take an active role in educating young teens on the risks of alcohol.

Young adults can also benefit from the support of friends and family. Although people who still have early alcoholism can learn skills to prevent addiction.

How to Prevent Alcoholism in Teenagers and Young Adults

Kids as young as 12 have reported drinking alcohol.2 If you’re a parent to a teen or young adult, or if you know someone in the family between the ages of 12 and 25, you can reduce their risk for alcohol disorder with the following tips.

Talk about Alcohol and its Risks with Children and Teens

It is good to have open and honest communication with children and teens about alcohol. While this may not be an easy conversation, building a strong parent-child relationship can make a difference. Talk with them about alcohol and what it does to their body. Share statistics and facts that highlight the risks of drinking alcohol at a young age. 

Set rules about alcohol and inform teens that drinking and excessive alcohol use has consequences. Educating children on the negative effects of alcohol before they become an adult is essential. Doing so may help reduce their risk of substance abuse.

Monitor Alcohol and Behaviors in the Home

In many cases, underage drinking starts at home. Research shows that active and regular involvement in a teen’s life can help reduce the risk of underage drinking and alcohol problems.

If you keep alcohol at home, monitor the supply, especially if you leave your teen and their friends unsupervised. Get to know their friends and their friends' parents and how they view alcohol and substance use. This makes it easier to monitor your teen’s activities and how to avoid possible peer pressure.

Teach Valuable Coping Methods for Stress

Many teens and young adults turn to alcohol as a way to reduce stress. Teaching them healthy coping skills can help them better handle stressful situations without the need for alcohol.

Taking an estimated 88,000 lives each year, alcohol addiction is the third leading cause of preventable death in America. In addition, alcohol misuse places an estimated 249-billion-dollar burden on the economy. 

Preventing Alcohol Addiction as an Adult

As an adult, you are responsible for your actions. So if you want to prevent alcohol addiction, you should start with yourself. Whether you drink casually or have started to drink alcohol more frequently, you can take the following steps to sober up.

Know Your Drinking Limits

Don't set a drinking limit on your own. Instead, follow the guidelines set out by health care institutions and medical professionals. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends the following drinking limits4:

  • Men: No more than 4 drinks per day and 14 drinks per week
  • Women: No more than 3 drinks per day and 7 drinks per week 

According to the NIAAA, only 2 out of 100 people who drink within these limits go on to develop alcohol problems.4

Avoid Binge Drinking and Heavy Drinking

Binge drinking and heavy drinking are types of excessive alcohol consumption.

  • Binge drinking is when a person drinks consecutively, resulting in high blood alcohol levels of 0.08% and above. Usually, it takes 10 or more drinks for men, and 8 or more drinks for women, to reach these levels.5
  • Heavy drinking is when a person drinks beyond the recommended limits. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) further defines it as binge drinking on 5 or more days within 30 days.5

To prevent alcoholism, you should avoid drinking frequently and excessively.

Recognize Your Triggers

What specific causes trigger you to drink? Do you crave a drink after a stressful day at work? Do you drink more if you’re hanging out with certain friends or co-workers? Do you turn to alcohol when you are bored or lonely? Have you previously experienced trauma? Are you currently going through a stressful situation?

All of these are good questions to ask yourself. Knowing which emotions, actions, or people influence your drinking will help you better understand ways to reduce your alcohol consumption or avoid drinking altogether.

Prevent Alcohol Addiction by Avoiding Emotional Drinking

Emotional drinkers are people who turn to alcohol when they feel negative emotions such as sadness and anxiety. Unfortunately, it’s a bad habit that can lead to alcohol dependence.

Try to be more self-aware of your emotional state. If you have the urge to drink alcohol whenever you have negative feelings, consciously direct your thoughts and actions to healthier alternatives. For example, you can read a book or spend time on your hobbies instead of thinking about alcohol or drinking.

Tell Loved Ones Your Concerns

If you think your drinking is starting to become a problem, talk to your trusted friends or family about it. This will help you get rid of the shame and guilt you might feel. These negative emotions can give you an excuse to continue alcohol consumption. Talking about your problems will get rid of this burden, so you can focus on getting better.

Also, having the support of a close friend or family member will help you maintain sobriety. They can keep you in check and make sure that you're not drinking. 

Remove Alcohol from the Home

Having a cabinet full of liquor or a well-stocked beer fridge is nice if you have guests who are also drinkers. But on a daily basis, this increases your risk of alcohol abuse or dependency.

A good preventive measure is to replace the bottles of liquor or beer with other non-alcoholic beverages. Only stock up on alcohol just before a social gathering or when you’re expecting people to come over. Having no alcohol in your home decreases your chance of drinking.

Reduce Your Alcohol Intake

If you drink frequently or tend to be an excessive drinker at social gatherings, try alternating your drinks with food and other non-alcoholic beverages. 

For example, when out at the bar with co-workers, it isn’t necessary to spend all night drinking. Take the time to consume your alcoholic drink. 

As soon as you finish, you don’t have to get another. Instead, you can opt for a snack or juice. This keeps your blood alcohol levels low and helps you avoid binge drinking.

Create a Positive Social Network and Support Group

Create a  network of friends and family who share similar interests. Surround yourself with positive people and those that make you feel good about yourself. 

Exploring new hobbies, making new friends at social gatherings, and finding people that bring joy and add meaning to your life are great ways to reduce your alcohol consumption and help prevent alcohol addiction.

Surround Yourself with Non-Drinkers

Don't spend all of your free time with drinkers. Going out with co-workers to drink and then going out with friends to drink, will only put you at risk for alcohol problems.

Use most of your free time to hang out with tea-totallers (people who don't drink at all), or those who drink moderately. Stay away from people who drink excessive amounts of alcohol, such as binge drinkers.

Alcohol does not have to be the focal point when you're meeting with others. There are other ways you can spend time without the involvement of alcohol. For instance, you can play video games, watch movies, or have barbecues, among many other activities you can do together.

Know the Consequences of Alcohol Use

Knowing what alcohol does to your body can stop you from drinking too much or help you quit alcohol for good. Excessive drinking is associated with numerous risks to a person's physical and mental health, as well as their safety. 

Some short-term risks of alcohol use include:

  • Injury and accidents — such as falls and vehicular crashes
  • Violence and involvement in crime
  • Alcohol poisoning, which is a medical emergency
  • Risky sexual behaviors — engaging in unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners

Drinking excessively for a long time can lead to chronic health problems and cause other complications.

Below are the long-term risks of excessive drinking:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease or stroke
  • Liver disease
  • Digestive problems
  • Weakened immune system
  • Alcoholic dementia
  • Mental health problems — like depression and anxiety
  • Social consequences — such as relationship problems and losing a job
  • Financial decline and bankruptcy
  • Homelessness

How to Reduce Your Risk for Alcohol Addiction

Alcohol use disorder is best avoided if you catch the early signs of an alcohol problem. These signs include:

  • Drinking alone
  • Drinking at inappropriate times
  • Hiding alcohol or hiding when drinking
  • Neglecting personal hygiene
  • Missing school or work consistently
  • Becoming defensive when asked about drinking habits
  • Avoiding contact with friends or loved ones

If you know someone who exhibits these signs, or if you experience them yourself, you should start taking measures to reduce your alcohol consumption.

However, people who drink excessively for too long may develop alcohol use disorders. Signs include:

  • Drinking more to get the desired effects
  • Increasing dependence on alcohol to function
  • Struggling to refuse alcohol
  • Feeling a strong urge to drink
  • Hanging out more with heavy drinkers
  • Increasing lethargy or emotional problems
  • Mental health issues

Once a person reaches this stage, it’s best to seek medical advice. You should also consider evidence-based treatments such as alcohol rehab, behavioral therapy, and counseling.

Joining alcohol support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous can also help you maintain sobriety during recovery. However, it should not be used as a substitute for professional help.

Related posts:

Resources

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(1) “Alcohol Facts and Statistics.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

(2) “Underage Drinking.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

(3) “2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health.” Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

(4) “Drinking Patterns and Their Definitions.” Alcohol Research Current Reviews.

(5) “Day-to-day variations in high-intensity drinking, expectancies, and positive and negative alcohol-related consequences.” PubMed.

(6) “5 Types of Alcoholics: What Are The Subtypes of Alcoholics?” Alcohol.org.

(7) “Alcohol Alert.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

(8) “Alcoholism and Family History.” Alcoholism and Family History - Health Encyclopedia - University of Rochester Medical Center.

(9) Landrum, Sarah. “4 Ways to Prevent Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Your Teen.” World of Psychology, 8 July 2018.

(10) “Make a Difference: Talk to Your Child About Alcohol - Parents.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 26 June 2019.

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