Alcoholism Prevention: Effective Strategies To Avoid Alcohol Abuse
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Excessive and uncontrolled consumption of alcohol can lead to dependence and abuse. People who are addicted to alcoholic drinks suffer from health, social, professional, and financial problems. Alcoholism prevention is a proactive approach to avoid the adverse effects of alcohol abuse. There are some easy-to-implement strategies to prevent addiction in people of all ages.
Table of Contents
- What is high-risk drinking
- Who is at risk of alcoholism
- Preventing alcoholism in the youth
- Prevention of abuse in older adults
- Workplace strategies and interventions to control consumption
- How to prevent alcohol abuse
- Finding help for people at risk of alcoholism
- Government policies for alcoholism prevention
Alcohol Drinking Patterns: How Much is Too Much?
The first step to curb unhealthy drinking patterns is knowing how much is too much. Awareness of risky drinking behaviors is essential for the prevention of alcoholism. According to guidelines issued by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the safe limit for alcohol consumption is a maximum of 14 standard drinks per week for men (with no more than 4 drinks per day) and a maximum of 7 standard drinks per week for women (with no more than 3 per day). A standard drink contains 14 grams of alcohol. Examples of one standard drink include:
- One 12-ounce bottle or can of beer with 5% strength
- One 5-ounce glass of wine with 12% strength
- One 1.5-ounce shot glass of spirit with 40% strength
High-Risk Individuals: Is A Loved One At Risk of Alcohol Abuse?
Certain individuals are at a higher risk of developing a dependence on intoxicating drinks. It is particularly important to prevent abuse in these groups. Some of the known risk factors for abuse include:
- Individuals with unhealthy drinking patterns (more than 12-15 drinks per week)
- Individuals who binge drink (more than 5 drinks on the same occasion)
- Individuals who have a family history of alcoholism (studies have shown that children of alcoholics are up to 4 times more likely to develop addiction)
- Individuals with mental health problems such as anxiety and depression
- Youth experiencing peer pressure or low self-esteem
- Individuals with high-stress jobs and work pressure
- Families and cultures where drinking is traditional
One of the ways to prevent alcoholism is for family members of high-risk individuals to remain vigilant. Behaviors that are red flags include drinking alone, needing to drink more and more to get the desired effects, poor appetite, neglecting personal hygiene, missing school or work, and anger when confronted about drinking habits. These behaviors should invite more careful monitoring and intervention, if needed, by family and friends.
Alcohol Prevention in Young People
Statistics show that underage drinking is a serious health problem all over the world, but more so in developed nations where the media depicts drinking alcohol as a desirable and popular activity. Teenagers and young adults are more likely to succumb to peer pressure and adopt inappropriate drinking behaviors. Research has shown that young people tend to consume 90 percent of their total intake of alcohol through binge drinking. Binge drinking has dangerous consequences such as drunk driving, sexual assault, injuries, impaired judgment, and increased risk of alcoholism later in life. It is, therefore, essential to prevent abuse in young people. Some of the approaches to encourage the youth to avoid drinking include:
- Teach teenagers how to avoid alcohol and say no
- Discuss important facts about alcohol with youngsters
- Communicate the consequences of drinking and enforce them consistently
- Monitor alcohol use in the home and keep track of stock
- Don’t permit unchaperoned parties
- Set a good example by drinking in moderation and showing teenagers there are healthy ways to deal with stress
- Clear the misconception that drinking is cool and everyone drinks
- Encourage healthy friendships with teenagers who do not drink
- Talk about ways to deal with peer pressure
At school and in the community:
- Use interactive teaching to educate youth about the dangers of drinking
- Appoint leaders from the peer group to reinforce prevention messages
- Involve parents and the community in alcoholism prevention initiatives for the youth
- Train and support teachers in alcohol prevention programs
Prevention of Alcohol Abuse in Older Adults
The aging human body does not handle alcohol in the same manner as its younger version. The drink stays in the body longer. It affects an older person differently than it does a young adult and women are more sensitive than men. An adult above the age of 65 can become tipsy without increasing the amount consumed habitually. Excessive consumption in older individuals may be associated with loss of balance, falls and fractures motor vehicle accidents, and a host of health problems. Some of the ways to avoid addiction and late-life drinking problems include:
- Educate older adults about the facts on aging and drinking and how to avoid alcohol poisoning
- Make older individuals aware that drinking can worsen or cause health problems such as stroke, high blood pressure, balance and coordination issues, and memory loss
- Talk about how prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, and herbal remedies can interact with alcoholic drinks and cause deadly complications
- Be aware of triggers for addiction such as the death of friends and loved ones or boredom and loneliness after retirement
Workplace Strategies to Prevent Alcoholism
One of the leading causes of alcohol abuse in adults is work-related stress. Alcohol prevention programs at the workplace are an effective way to prevent abuse in employed individuals. Programs that raise awareness about how to avoid alcohol abuse, especially for people in high-stress jobs, have proven beneficial. Some of the workplace strategies and initiatives for prevention of addiction include:
- Lifestyle campaigns to ease stress and reduce risky behaviors such as excessive consumption of intoxicating drinks
- Talks and seminars on how to avoid drinking
- Peer referral programs to provide support to employees experiencing work-related stress
- Periodic assessment of high-risk behaviors and drinking rates
- Encouragement of group activities, such as sports, rather than socializing with colleagues over drinks
Simple Steps to Avoid Alcohol Abuse
In modern society, consuming alcohol is considered normal behavior. Many people begin and continue to drink to fit in. Yet, when consumption of beer, wine, and hard liquor is not practiced in moderation, it is associated with dangerous social behaviors such as sexual adventure, increased aggression, and poor judgment. The line between a social drinker and a full-blown alcoholic is often a fine one. How to prevent alcoholism? Is there something an individual can do? There are a number of simple strategies to avoid alcohol abuse and drink alcohol in moderation. Some approaches to prevent alcoholism include:
- Avoid drinking on an empty stomach
- Sip the drink slowly and don’t binge drink
- Tell friends and family about the intention to stop or reduce alcohol intake
- Refuse alcoholic drinks and ask for something non-alcoholic when socializing
- Don’t stock alcohol at home
- Avoid drinking when one is affected by negative emotions or upset
- Avoid drinking after a stressful or tiring day and deal with the stress by exercising or other healthy activities
- Curtail time spent with friends and colleagues who drink excessively
- Avoid socializing at bars; instead, plan activities with friends at places that do not sell alcohol
- Treat oneself and use the money saved to do something pleasant or buy something that makes one gappy
Seeking Help to Prevent Alcoholism
If an individual is showing high-risk behavior for abuse, studies have shown that early intervention can help prevent many of the adverse effects of alcoholism. Some of the things to do when a drinking problem is suspected include seeking therapy from a trained counselor, talking to the family physician, and finding a support group for adults with alcohol problems, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Alcohol rehab centers offer professional help to people struggling with alcohol addiction.
Government Laws and Policies on Alcoholic Drinks
From a public health perspective, the laws and policies enforced by the government can address abusive use of alcohol in the general population as well as target groups. These interventions for alcohol prevention affect a wider audience and work on a larger scale than any other category of strategies to prevent addiction. Government policies in this regard include:
- Legislation controlling availability with limitations on density of outlets and hours of sale
- Consequences of excessive use such as laws for disruptive behavior under the influence
- Enforcement of ID checks to purchase alcoholic drinks
- Enactment of strict DUI laws and lowering of legal blood alcohol limit for drivers
- Increased prices of alcoholic drinks through taxation policies
- Community-based alcohol prevention programs for high-risk groups
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