Is Alcohol Consuming You?
According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), an estimated 95,000 people die from alcohol-related causes annually. Alcohol is the third-leading preventable cause of death in the United States. And even though overdose deaths rose nearly 30% in 2020 to 93,000, alcohol-related deaths still surpassed them.
Additionally, alcohol sales and consumption have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. As of June 2021, 13% of Americans reported starting or increasing their alcohol use as a way of coping with stress or emotions related to COVID-19, and excessive drinking (such as binge drinking) increased by 21%. (Excessive drinking for women is defined as having eight or more drinks per week; for men, it’s 15 or more drinks per week.)
Drinking too much can harm your health. Know the signs of risky drinking, tips for reducing your alcohol intake, and what to do if you are concerned about a loved one’s drinking.
Indicators of Risky or Hazardous Drinking
- Drink more or longer than you intend.
- Try to cut down or stop drinking but are not able to.
- Have to drink more than you once did to get the effect you want.
- Continue to drink even though it makes you feel depressed or anxious or adds to other health problems.
- Loved ones and/or trusted friends have made comments about your drinking pattern.
- Find that drinking often interferes with daily activities, family, friends, and/or work.
- Experience symptoms of withdrawal when you don’t drink (withdrawal symptoms include shakiness, sweating, tremors, headaches, anxiety, irritability, and/or insomnia).
Tips for Cutting Down Your Alcohol Consumption
- Set a daily and weekly drinking limit. Write down your limit and keep it with you. Ask a friend who does not drink to help you stay within your limit.
- Pace your drinking. Have no more than one standard drink per hour. (A standard drink is 12 fl. oz. of beer, 8-9 fl. oz. of malt liquor, 5 fl. oz. of wine, or 1.5 fl. oz. shot of gin, rum, whiskey, vodka, etc.)
- Wait 15 minutes. Distract yourself and see if after a short amount of time, the need for a drink goes away.
- Avoid situations and triggers that cause you to drink.
- Speak with your doctor and/or seek treatment for your alcohol use.
What to Do If You Are Concerned About a Loved One’s Drinking
- Study up. Find out as much as you can about the effects of alcohol and the signs of alcohol misuse so you have facts on hand.
- Time your talk right.A conversation when they’ve been drinking or are stressed is likely to trigger a lot of emotions that could get out of hand. Choose a time when you’re both well-rested and clearheaded.
- Focus on results.Explain how their drinking could be affecting their health and how it will continue to cause harm.
- Expect pushback. They may be defensive and deny the problem.
- Prepare a plan.Have some concrete next steps for them to choose from, in case they’re ready to get help. Look for local Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, find counselors that fit their insurance plan, and research treatment facilities.
- Stay connected.Continue to do things you enjoy together. Encourage their hobbies and healthy friendships. Be ready to support them as they work on themselves and seek treatment.
For more information and resources about alcohol use and abuse, visit https://www.pennfoundation.org/alcohol-awareness-month-2023.
It’s Alcohol Awareness Month, and St. Luke’s and Penn Foundation are connecting individuals battling alcoholism with resources and treatment. Together, we offer every level of care available. Learn more online and start your recovery today!