Updated on April 3, 2024
7 min read

How to Prevent Alcoholism

Key Takeaways

  • Alcohol addiction or alcohol abuse can lead to long-term physical and mental health complications
  • You can prevent alcohol addiction with moderate drinking and professional treatments
  • Alcohol can affect people differently, because of this there is no single way to prevent addiction
  • If you start to notice physical and mental side effects from alcohol abuse, consider seeking medical attention
  • Various treatment options are available to help you recover from addiction and stay sober

Can You Prevent Alcohol Abuse?

Yes, you can prevent alcohol abuse. However, alcohol has different effects on everyone. Because of this, there’s no single way to prevent alcoholism.

Drinking patterns vary depending on factors such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Culture
  • Environment
  • Background

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Tips for Preventing Alcohol Abuse & Addiction in Adults

If you are struggling with alcohol, the following tips will help you create healthy drinking habits and prevent alcohol use disorder (AUD).

Drink Moderately or Practice Low-Risk Drinking

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend non-drinkers abstain from alcohol completely. If you've already started drinking, limit yourself to 1 drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men.8

You can also practice low-risk drinking. Limit your intake to 7 drinks per week for women or 14 for men.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), only 2 out of 100 drinkers within these limits develop AUD.4

Monitor Your Drinking

Whether you drink alone or with others, drink within the recommended limits. One way to do this is to alternate drinking with other activities. For example, you can:

  • Eat
  • Talk to people
  • Drink water in between drinks
  • Substitute alcohol with non-alcoholic drinks

Before you grab a drink, ask yourself why you are doing it. Do not drink alcohol if you feel any negative emotions.

Drinking to cope with sadness or stress will sometimes cause you to consume more alcohol than usual. This can lead to alcohol dependence and long-term alcohol abuse.9,10

Avoid Triggers

A trigger can be any place, person, object, or situation that urges you to drink alcohol. Learning to recognize your triggers is important in alcohol prevention.

Here are some ways you can avoid them:

  • Do not attend gatherings or celebrations where there is alcohol
  • Stay away from people who drink heavily or encourage you to drink
  • Do not store alcohol at home or keep a stock of it
  • Replace alcohol with non-alcoholic drinks and healthy foods
  • Avoid people and situations that remind you of past trauma
  • Do not live in places that provide easy access to alcohol, such as nearby bars
  • Learn healthy coping mechanisms to prevent emotional drinking

Avoiding triggers can be difficult. If you are constantly exposed to triggers, consider moving to an alcohol-free environment, such as a halfway house.

Get Support

Having people who support you is a great way to reinforce your alcohol prevention strategies. They can help you:

  • Regulate your drinking
  • Avoid triggers
  • Create healthy coping mechanisms
  • Hold you accountable if you drink
  • Call healthcare professionals in case of emergencies

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How to Prevent Underage Drinking

As a parent or family member, here are some ways to prevent alcohol use in teenagers:

  • Encourage teens to feel confident about turning down alcohol
  • Speak openly and honestly about drinking and its risks
  • Establish boundaries on what will happen if a teen drinks
  • Monitor your alcohol at home so you can tell if they have been drinking
  • Do not allow them to go to parties without a chaperone
  • Set a rule that it is unacceptable to consume alcohol at home
  • Encourage healthy relationships with peers who do not drink
  • Set a good example with responsible alcohol consumption
  • Enroll your child in alcohol prevention programs

The main consequence of underage drinking is that it causes impulsive behavior. This often increases the risk of: 

  • Accidents
  • Injuries
  • Sexual assault
  • Alcohol overdose
  • Premature death

Studies show that people who start drinking in their teenage years are at higher risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD) in adulthood.12 Because of this, it's important to help them as early as possible.

Preventing Harmful Alcohol Use in Older People

Alcohol use disorders are less common in older adults. But with nearly half of those aged 65 and over still drinking, alcohol consumption is still associated with age-related risks.

Older people have a lower tolerance for alcohol. They can suffer from alcohol-related harm even if they drink within the recommended limits.

To help them avoid harmful alcohol use, involve healthy and safe approaches and seek help from family members and health professionals. 

Here are some ways you can reduce the harmful consequences of alcohol among older adults:

  • Ensure they do not mix alcohol with over-the-counter (OTC) and prescription drugs.
  • If they have pre-existing health conditions, limit or stop their alcohol intake.
  • Watch out for triggers that may cause them to drink excessively.
  • Provide support.

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When Should You Get Help for You or Your Loved One?

AUD can affect anyone, regardless of age. Knowing the early signs of alcoholism can help you prevent it.

Signs and symptoms of alcoholism include:

  • Drinking alcohol alone or hiding one's drinking
  • Needing to increase consumption to achieve the same effect
  • Decreasing appetite and gradual weight loss
  • Lack of personal hygiene
  • Decreasing function at work or school
  • Becoming angry when confronted about their alcohol misuse

If you experience these or know someone who does, don’t hesitate to seek professional treatment and advice. Doctors and healthcare providers can help you explore harm reduction programs and assist with staging interventions if needed.

How Is Alcohol Addiction Diagnosed?

You’ll start by seeing your primary healthcare provider. If they think you have a problem with alcohol, you’ll be referred to a mental health provider.

You may go through assessments and examinations that include:

  • Asking you about your drinking habits
  • Alcohol screening and brief interventions
  • Lab and image testing
  • Psychological evaluations 

Treatment Options for AUD

If you have a drinking problem or alcohol addiction, various treatment options can help you recover and stay sober. However, alcohol affects people differently, and so does treatment.

Consult a doctor or health professional to help find the right treatment program for your needs. Available treatment options for AUD include:

Preventing Excessive Alcohol Use

Alcohol is a psychoactive substance with immediate effects on the brain. Repeated use can change the way your brain functions and cause alcohol addiction.3 Preventing alcoholism can help you avoid long-term, life-altering consequences. 

Excessive alcohol use or alcoholism can lead to:1,2

  • Alcoholic liver disease
  • Heart disease
  • Disabilities
  • Social or relationship problems
  • Work or school problems
  • Mental health problems
  • Cancer
  • Death

Before you take on alcohol prevention, you should examine your relationship with alcohol. Doing so will help determine whether you have a mild or severe alcohol problem.

How to Tell if You Drink Too Much

Take note of how many drinks you typically consume and how often you drink in a day, week, and month. If you drink excessively, you may have an alcohol problem among the following:

  • Binge drinking: 4 or more drinks for women in 2 hours or 5 or more drinks for men 
  • High-intensity drinking: Alcohol consumption that is 2 or more times than binge drinking levels
  • Heavy drinking: 3 or more drinks a day or at least 8 drinks per week for women or 4 or more drinks a day or at least 15 drinks per week for men

Heavy, high-intensity, and binge drinking are signs you drink too much alcohol. Any type of alcohol use in pregnant women and adolescents below 21 is also considered excessive.4,5

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Updated on April 3, 2024
12 sources cited
Updated on April 3, 2024
  1. "Harmful use of alcohol." World Health Organization Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office.
  2. "Alcohol Abuse Statistics." The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics, 2023.
  3. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Biology of Addiction: Drugs and Alcohol Can Hijack Your Brain." News in Health, 2015.
  4. "Drinking Patterns and Their Definitions." Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 2018.
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Excessive Alcohol Use." National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2022.
  6. Harding et al. “Underage Drinking: A Review of Trends and Prevention Strategies.” American Journal of Preventive Medicine, 2016.
  7. Patrick, M., and Azar, B."High-Intensity Drinking." Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 2018.
  8. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans." Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, 2015.
  9. Merrill, J., and Thomas, S. "Interactions between Adaptive Coping and Drinking to Cope in Predicting Naturalistic Drinking and Drinking Following a Lab-Based Psychosocial Stressor." Addictive Behaviors, 2012.
  10. Turner et al. “Self-medication with alcohol or drugs for mood and anxiety disorders: A narrative review of the epidemiological literature.” Depression and Anxiety, 2018.
  11. Kelly et al. "The relationship of social support to treatment entry and engagement: The Community Assessment Inventory." Substance Abuse, 2010.
  12. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. "Alcohol Facts and Statistics." National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 2023.

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