How to Drink Responsibly and Enjoy Alcohol

Group of friends drinking at a restaurant
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Many binge drinkers and heavy drinkers decide that they want to start drinking responsibly. But with all the information out there about the dangers of alcohol, it can be difficult to know where to start. You can learn how to drink responsibly in simple steps.

Establish Your Drinking Goal

Although it is a good idea to think about reducing your alcohol intake, check whether you are a suitable candidate for controlled drinking. Some people shouldn't drink at all, especially if you have a history of addiction problems or a close relative who has or had an addiction or mental health problems.

Your drinking goal should be based on what is best for your long-term health, as well as what is realistic for you, your family and friends, and other aspects of your lifestyle.

If you realize you should quit completely, talk to your doctor about getting help with quitting alcohol and staying sober. Depending on how much you have been drinking recently, it may not even be safe to quit cold turkey, and your doctor can prescribe medications to make it safer and help you cope with alcohol withdrawal. If you are a good candidate for controlled drinking, think about your goal and write it down.

Controlled Drinking Goals

Some possible controlled drinking goals include:

  • I just want to drink at weekends.
  • I want to lower my overall intake to a healthy amount.
  • I want to be able to drink at parties and other events without getting drunk.

Assess Your Alcohol Intake

Keep a drinking diary for one week. The most straightforward drinking diaries just record how much you drink each day, but the more you can keep track of, the better you will understand your own drinking patterns, and thus be able to control them.

Every evening (or the following morning, if you forget), write down how many drinks you drank, where you were when you were drinking, and with whom. Also write down any negative effects or situations that arose that you would like to avoid in the future, for example, "After my third beer, I got into an argument with Ben." This step will give you a good idea of the times, places and people where your drinking tends to become excessive or problematic.

Calculate Your Safe Limit

Your safe alcohol limit is based on your blood alcohol concentration and is the amount of alcohol you can drink in a single drinking session. It is based on several factors, including your sex, weight, and how quickly you drink. When you have figured out how many drinks you can drink, write it down, along with the drinking time period.

Purchase Small Amounts

Stocking up on wine, beer, and liquor is the quickest way to sabotage your plan to drink responsibly. For drinking at home, follow these tips:

  • Buy only the amount of alcoholic beverage you identified in step 3, on the day you intend to drink it.
  • Purchase individual cans or single serving or half-size bottles of wine if necessary.
  • Purchase the same amount of alcohol-free or low-alcohol wine or beer If you know you will want more drinks, but not more alcohol.

Plan Your Journey Home

Even though you will be drinking at a sensible level, you will still be impaired and should not drive. Arrange for a ride home with a sober driver, or pre-book a cab.

If that is too costly, plan your bus journey home so you know when to leave while the buses are still running. Leave your car at home so you will not be tempted to use it. Get a ride or take a bus to your drinking event.

Pace Yourself

Drink only the amount you wrote down in step 3, and at the speed specified. If you want more to drink in between, drink water or alcohol-free or low-alcohol beverages.

Watch for Peer Pressure

Look at the drinking diary you completed in step 2. If there are any people who encourage you to drink too much, try to avoid them for the first month or so while you get used to your new style of drinking. If you are constantly surrounded by peer pressure to drink, start making new friends who don't drink as much.

Other Options

It's possible you may have an alcohol problem, in which case, talk to your doctor about getting help. The Sinclair Method (TSM) is a relatively new and someone controversial method for helping people drink less that involves taking an opioid antagonist medication (naltrexone) about an hour before drinking.

The medication blocks the euphoric effects of alcohol, which is thought to help people cut back on their drinking. You may also find it helpful to join a self-help recovery group. Learn more about how to find a support group near you and how to choose one that is right for your needs.

5 Sources
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