Updated on February 22, 2023
6 min read

How to Prevent Alcoholism

Preventing Excessive Alcohol Use

Alcohol is a psychoactive substance with immediate effects on the brain. Repeated use can change the way it functions and cause alcohol addiction.3

Because of this, preventing alcoholism can help you avoid long-term, life-altering consequences. Excessive alcohol use or alcoholism can lead to:1,2

  • Diseases
  • Disabilities
  • Social or relationship problems
  • Work or school problems
  • Mental health problems
  • Death

Before you take steps in alcohol prevention, you must examine your alcohol use. This will help you determine if you have an alcohol problem.

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Assessing Your Drinking Levels — 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. This can include:

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

Heavy drinking, high-intensity drinking, 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

How Can You Prevent Alcohol Abuse?

Drinking patterns vary depending on factors such as:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Culture
  • Environment
  • Background

However, alcohol use can have different effects on everyone. Because of this, there is no single way to prevent alcoholism. Knowing how alcohol affects you can help determine what method is best for you.

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. But if you've already started drinking, you can limit yourself to 1 drink a day for women or 2 drinks a day for men.8

You can also practice low-risk drinking. This means limiting your intake to 3 drinks per day or 7 drinks per week (in women) and 4 drinks per day or 14 drinks per week (in men).

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

Monitor How Much You Drink

Whether you are drinking alone or with others, make sure you 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
  • Instead of storing alcohol at home, replace 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 Alcohol Abuse in Children and Teens

The main consequence of underage drinking is that it causes impulsive behavior. This often increases the risk for accidents, injuries, sexual assault, alcohol overdose, and premature death.

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 school facilities with alcohol prevention programs

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 the elderly aged 65 and over still drinking, alcohol consumption is still associated with age-related risks.

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

To help them avoid harmful alcohol use, involve healthy, safe family members. Here are ways you can reduce the harmful consequences of alcohol among the elderly:

  • Make sure 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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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
  • Need 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, do not hesitate to seek professional treatment advice. Doctors can help you explore harm reduction programs and assist with staging interventions if needed.

Treatment Options for AUD

Alcohol affects everyone differently. Because of this, some treatment options can be better for you than others.

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

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Updated on February 22, 2023
12 sources cited
Updated on February 22, 2023
  1. "Harmful use of alcohol." World Health Organization Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office.
  2. "Alcohol Abuse Statistics." The National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics.
  3. "Biology of Addiction: Drugs and Alcohol Can Hijack Your Brain." News in Health.
  4. "Drinking Patterns and Their Definitions." Alcohol Research Current Reviews.
  5. "Excessive Alcohol Use." National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
  6. "Underage Drinking in America: Scope of the Problem." National Center of Biotechnology Information.
  7. "High-Intensity Drinking." National Center of Biotechnology Information.
  8. "Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020." U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
  9. "Interactions between Adaptive Coping and Drinking to Cope in Predicting Naturalistic Drinking and Drinking Following a Lab-Based Psychosocial Stressor." National Center of Biotechnology Information.
  10. "Drinking to cope, emotional distress and alcohol use and abuse: a ten-year model." PubMed.
  11. "The relationship of social support to treatment entry and engagement: The Community Assessment Inventory." National Center of Biotechnology Information.
  12. "Alcohol facts and statistics." National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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