by Drs. Arnold and Loraine Washton

Although excessive drinking can be distinctly harmful, moderate amounts of alcohol, especially in social settings, can help to relieve stress, enhance positive emotions, and facilitate social bonding—strong contributors to its worldwide appeal over many centuries.

How Much Drinking is “Too Much”? There is no widely accepted medical definition of “moderate” drinking, but according to the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “low-risk” or non-problematic drinking is defined as up to two drinks daily for healthy adult men and one drink daily for healthy adult women. (One drink equals one 12-ounce bottle of beer, one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits). Keep in mind that these are upper limits— not recommended levels of drinking –and that no level of drinking may be safe if you have a personal or family history serious alcohol/drug problems, other mental health problems, or are taking medication that interacts adversely with alcohol.

Mindful Moderate Drinking- 10 Tips. To reap the benefits of alcohol while avoiding the pitfalls requires drinking moderately and mindfully. This means remaining aware in real time of how much and how quickly you are drinking and how each additional drink is affecting your mood and behavior; and, most importantly, to stop drinking before alcohol’s effects turn from positive to distinctly negative. Here are some tips:

1. Keep track. Count your drinks using an app such as Saying When.

2. Pace and space. Drink slowly, no more than one drink per hour, especially for the first hour. Martinis and other mixed drinks contain 2-3 drinks per serving.

3. Don’t drink with heavy drinkers. If do find yourself out with heavy drinkers, have a club soda with lime in your hand so you can skip the next round and deflect unwanted attention.

4. Don’t drink past your “off” switch. Stop drinking before you stop thinking. Men generally lose their off switch after 3-5 drinks and women after 2-4 drinks consumed in less than 3-4 hours.

5. Intersperse food and water. Eat something before taking your first drink and then intersperse water or other beverages in between drinks.

6. Identify your heavy drinking triggers and try to avoid them.

7. Don’t drink when you’re feeling emotionally upset.

8. Avoid negative interactions with prescription medications. Combining alcohol with sedatives (e.g., Xanax, Ativan, Klonopin, Ambien) or opioids (Oxycontin, Vicodin, Percoset) can lead to severe intoxication, blackout, coma, and lethal overdose.

9. Safety first. Plan your transportation and make sure a designated driver or other safe ride (e.g., Uber, Lyft, local car service) is part of the plan.

10. Think about tomorrow. If you have to be at work or perform some other important task the next day, then plan to stop drinking early enough so you have time to recover and be on your game.

If you’ve tried repeatedly to moderate your drinking without success and find it too difficult to reliably implement strategies like those outlined above, then consider seeking advice and consultation from an experienced professional. Please contact us to today to schedule your private consultation. 609-497-0433.

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