In the United States, approximately 14 million people fall under the criteria for severe alcohol use disorders (AUD). On average, more than 88,000 deaths annually are attributed to alcoholism. This makes alcohol prevention a priority.
The financial cost of alcohol abuse is astronomical. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention put the amount at more than $200 billion per year. Most of these costs (40%) are borne by the federal state and local governments. Therefore, prevention of alcohol abuse can save the economy a lot of resources.
Other than the financial cost, excessive consumption of alcoholic drinks has implications for health care costs, aggression and violence, and family upbringing.
Drinking Levels: How Much is Too Much
A standard drink contains 14.0 grams or 0.6 ounces of pure alcohol. 12 ounces of beer contains approximately 5% alcohol content while 5 ounces of wine contains 12% alcohol content. On the other hand, distilled spirits such as rum, vodka, gin, and whiskey have the highest content at 40% alcohol in 1.5 ounces.
There are two broad levels of drinking: excessive drinking and moderate drinking. Excessive drinking is further categorized into heavy drinking, binge drinking, and any drinking by minors (under age 21) and pregnant women.
The most common form of excessive drinking and one of the early signs of alcoholism is binge drinking. Taking 4 or more drinks in a single occasion for women and 5 or more drinks for men, constitute binge drinking. There is a strong positive correlation between binge drinking and alcoholism. Most people targeted in alcoholism prevention fall in this category.
Heavy drinking means 8 or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more for men. Taking one drink per day and two drinks per day for women and men respectively is classified by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans as moderate drinking.
Risk Groups to Target in Alcohol Prevention
The potential causes and risk factors associated with alcoholism have been the subject of studies done on ways to prevent alcoholism. Data analyzed shows a multiplicity of factors influencing alcohol abuse.
Alcoholism can impact anyone irrespective of gender, personal beliefs, ethnicity, age, or body type. However, the following groups have been identified as being at a higher risk hence the focus of prevention interventions.
People with Low Esteem
Low levels of self-esteem can be a catalyst for alcohol addiction. Feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, worthlessness, and hopelessness can push you to alcoholism as a form of emotional escape. Low self-esteem occurs when your mental impression of your ideal-self differs from your actual self. Once the mind registers this escape route, it becomes difficult to avoid alcohol.
One of the greatest underlying causes of alcoholism in the United States is work-related stress. In addition, some professions revolve around alcohol, require people to network socially outside of the office, or have irregular work shift hours, thus posing a challenge to the prevention of alcoholism.
Statistics reported by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reveals that mining, construction, and accommodation services have the highest incidences of alcoholism. The rates stood at 17.5%, 16.5%, and 11.8% respectively.
People with Mental Disorders
There is well-documented evidence that shows a strong relationship between mental disorders such as depression, bipolar, anxiety, and panic disorders and alcohol abuse.
The National Comorbidity Survey shows that more than 40% of bipolar sufferers and about 20% of depression sufferers either abuse or are dependent on alcohol. Most of these people turn to alcoholism as a coping mechanism for their illnesses.
If you are a drug abuser, it becomes difficult to avoid alcohol abuse. When individuals abuse drugs, their tolerance levels increase. This means for them to experience the same or higher desirable effects, they must up their intake or include another substance. Most drug abusers find it difficult to prevent alcohol abuse.
Families with a Drinking History
People coming from a family with a history of diagnosable alcoholic problems are more at risk of becoming alcoholics. On average, children born to alcohol-dependent parents have a 300% greater chance of developing a problematic pattern of drinking compared to the rest.
Alcoholism is more of a behavioral condition. The position of the family in early childhood development is important in instilling social behavior and values. Alcoholic parents tend to be a great influence on their children and lack the moral authority to teach them ways to avoid alcohol.
Practical Tips to Prevent Alcoholism
If you are already into drinking, preventing the urge and ultimately stopping, can be a challenge. However, there are strategies and routines on how to prevent alcoholism you can adapt to cut back and eventually stop drinking altogether.
Internal and external triggers such as places, people, times of day, positive emotions, and negative emotions like frustration can leave you craving a drink. Recognizing these triggers is one way how to avoid alcohol. Move away from certain places, change the company, or switch to something else.
Don’t Keep Alcohol at Home
Access to alcohol increases the likelihood of drinking. Fully-stocked liquor cabinets and half-drunk bottles of wine can set off your drinking triggers. If there is no social purpose, keep alcoholic drinks out of your house. In fact, you can substitute with other drinks such as tea, water, and lemonade.
Engage in Other Activities
Instead of spending time in bars, look for other joints where there are non-drinking activities. You can take a walk, watch a movie or pick up a sport as a strategy on how to avoid drinking alcohol.
Cut Down on the Number of Drinks
Stopping alcoholism is a gradual process that takes time. You should start by cutting down on the drinks you take per day or week. Work on a practical prevention schedule and have an accountability partner. The best way on how to avoid alcohol poisoning is by taking water in between your drinks.
Build a Social Support Network
Surrounding yourself with people of positive influence and those that build your confidence is hugely important as it can help you avoid excessive drinking. They can help you make life changes necessary for long-term sobriety.
Alcoholism Prevention Laws and Regulations
In the United States, the debate on how to avoid alcoholism is far from over. Federal state and local governments have put in measures to reduce alcohol abuse and the resulting consequences. Policy interventions such as zero tolerance laws, raising the minimum legal drinking age, warning labels, rehabs for alcoholics, and administrative license revocation laws are already in place.
Community-based interventions and prevention measures such as the Saving Lives Program, Life Skills Training, and Alcohol Misuse Prevention Study have proved effective. With the right information and training on how to prevent alcohol abuse, individuals can put their drinking under control.
When to Seek Professional Help
Alcoholism is a disorder that needs professional support during treatment and recovery. Depending on the stage of alcoholism, therapists can help families share the mental and emotional burden of supporting alcohol abuse family members.
By attending therapy and alcohol treatment program, alcoholics can regain control over their lives including their habitual drinking and live productive lives once again. If alcoholism has overwhelmed a person that can’t find the support they need, there are professionals to talk to.