Drink Too Much Alcohol?

Here are practical suggestions for either cutting down or abstaining from alcohol along with tips for helping loved ones who have a drinking problem. Useful sources of help for alcohol and drinking abuse problems are also listed.


Some Questions

Could you or someone you care about drink too much? 1

The more of these questions that apply, the greater the chance that you might have a problem with drinking. But having a drinking problem doesn't mean that you are alcoholic or that you have to abstain from alcohol. Most, people who experience problems from drinking choose to reduce their consumption to moderate levels rather than to abstain. You might consult with your doctor for advice.

How to Cut Back on Drinking

  1. Write down your reasons for drinking less.
    Why do you want to drink less? To protect your health, to get along better with your family or friends, to do better in school or to save your job? Make a list of the reasons you want to drink less.
  2. Set a drinking goal.

    Choose a limit for how much you will drink. A common guideline in the U.S. is no more than one drink per day for women and no more than two drinks a day for men. These daily drinks can't be "saved" and consumed later. For example, a man can't abstain all week and then consume all 14 drinks in one day.

    Most countries define moderation at higher levels of consumption than does the US. For example, Australia, Italy and France consider anything from three to over four drinks per day for men to be moderate drinking. 2

  3. Keep a "diary" of your drinking.

    To help you reach your goal, keep a diary of your drinking. For example, write down every time you have a drink for three or four weeks. This will show you when, where, and how much you drink. How different is you goal from the amount you drink now?

      # of drinks type of drinks place consumed

Be especially careful at home

Keep only a small amount of alcohol, or even no alcohol, at home. This will help reduce temptation.

Keep your blood alcohol content (BAC) low

When you drink, sip your drink slowly. Drink for taste rather than

Don't drink on an empty stomach.

Consume no more than one drink per hour.

Eat food or "munchies" while drinking. High protein and high fat foods like cheese and nuts are especially good at keeping your blood alcohol content low.

Drink soda, water, or juice after a drink containing alcohol.

Learn to say "no" when you don't want a drink

You don't have to take a drink just because it's offered to you.

You can "lose" unwanted drinks that are given to you. For example, set them down and later walk away.

"A Consumer Guide to Recovery Options" provides excellent descriptions of both abstinence and non-abstinence recovery options. This useful guide is in Anne M. Fletcher's Sober for Good (NY: Houghton Mifflin, 2001), pp. 267-302.

Additional resources below.

You can drink non-alcoholic drinks that look like alcoholic ones. For example, tomato juice, lemonade, iced tea, water with ice cubes, club soda with orange juice, tonic water with a twist or wedge of lime, and either orange juice or 7-Up with grenadine.

Stay away from people who give you a hard time about not drinking as much as they do.

Saying "no" gets easier the more you do it. Practice refusing drinks politely. Say something clever. 3

I don't need any more hair on my chest

I'm performing neurosurgery in the morning

It sloshes too much when I jog

No thank you

Get support

Cutting down on your drinking can be difficult at times. Ask your family and friends for support to help you reach your goal. Talk to your doctor if you are having trouble cutting down; medications are available to help make it easier. Get whatever help you need to reach your goal.

Avoid temptations

Stay away from people who want you to drink more than you want to. Watch out for people, times, places or situations that encourage you to drink too much.

Don't give up!

If you don't reach your goal the first time you try, don't get discouraged. Try again. Remember, get support from people who care about you and want to help. Don't give up!


Some signs that may indicate a drinking problem in a loved one include:

Helping a Loved One

Having a drinking problem does not mean that a person is alcoholic, or addicted to alcohol. The person may only need to cut down rather than abstain. Many find the idea of drinking in moderation more acceptable and achievable than abstaining entirely from alcohol.

The decision whether to reduce drinking to moderate levels or abstain entirely from alcohol is best made after consulting with a doctor.

Helping a person who drinks too much takes knowledge, compassion and patience. Some actions are helpful and others are not.



Remember that changing behavior, especially becoming an abstainer, is very difficult. Be understanding and patient, but don't accept any responsibility or guilt for the behavior of another person. You are responsible only for your own behavior.

Internet Resources

HAMS is a free peer-led support and information group for anyone who wants to change their drinking behaviors for the better. The acronym HAMS stands for Harm reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support. (347) 678-5671

www.moderation.org - Moderation Management stresses balance, moderation, self-management, and personal responsibility.

www.med.umich.edu/drinkwise - Drink Wise is a brief, confidential educational program for people with mild to moderate alcohol problems who want to eliminate the negative consequences of their drinking.

www.alcoholics-anonymous.org (212-817-3400 or consult your local telephone directory) - The oldest and best-known "twelve-step" program of self-help for alcoholics who wish to abstain is Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Founded in 1935, and based on a religious movement of the time, AA estimates that it now has two million members in 114 countries. Membership in this non-professional, mutual support organization is free, and members are encouraged to attend ninety meetings in the first ninety days of their affiliation with the fellowship. Those who affiliate are expected to follow the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

www.al-anon.org (888-4AL-ANON) - Al-anon's purpose is to help families and friends of alcoholics recover from the effects of living with a problem drinker. Alateen is the recovery program for young people sponsored by Al-anon members. Both Al-anon and Alateen are adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous and are based on the Twelve Steps. Thousands of Al-anon and Alateen support groups operate in over 100 countries around the world.

www.rational.org/recovery (1-800-303-2873) - Established as an alternative to the spiritual nature of AA as well as its view that alcoholics are powerless and must submit to God's will in order to recover, Rational Recovery stresses the innate power and strength of individuals themselves to overcome obstacles. It rejects the AA belief that "once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic." Rational Recovery teaches people how to become independent of both alcohol addiction and of organizations dealing with alcoholism.

www.secularhumanism.org/sos (310-821-8430) - Secular Organizations For Sobriety (SOS), also known as Save Our Selves, this program stresses the need to place the highest priority on sobriety and uses mutual support to assist members in achieving this goal. The Suggested Guidelines for Sobriety emphasize rational decision-making and are not religious or spiritual in nature.

http://smartrecovery.org (216-292-0220) - Self-Management and Recovery Training (SMART Recovery) views alcohol dependence as a bad habit and attempts to use common sense techniques to break the habit.

www.womenforsobriety.org (1-800-333-1606) - The mutual support groups of Women for Sobriety work to enhance the self-esteem of members. Women for Sobriety groups are non-religious and the meetings also differ from those of AA in that they prohibit the use of tobacco, caffeine and sugar.

Whether you decide to cut down or to abstain entirely from alcohol,


The material on this site is for information only and is not advice


  • 1. Adapted from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. How to Cut Down on Your Drinking. Washington, DC: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1996.

  • 2. International Center for Alcohol Policies. ICAP Report - Supplement, n.d., 1-2, p. 2; Centre for Information on Beverage Alcohol. Global overview of drinking recommendations and guidelines. AIM, June, 1997, Supplement, 1-4, p. 2.
  • 3. Poliafico, F. J. Drinking Alcohol? Make an Informed Choice. Chester, Pennsylvania: Emergency and Safety Programs, 1994.
  • 4. Alcohol and Older People, Mayo Clinic Health Letter, February, 2000, p. 6.
  • Adapted from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. If Someone Close Has a Problem with Alcohol or other Drugs. Rockville, Maryland: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, n.d.

Filed Under: Alcohol Abuse

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