Health & Wellness Blog
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Finding Ways to Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Posted by Scott filed under Nutrition
The maxim “Everything in moderation” can be a challenge, depending on what the “thing” is. For example, alcohol use reportedly increased significantly since 2001. This includes overall use, excessive consumption, and alcohol use disorders (what docs call a drinking problem)
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate alcohol consumption is defined as having up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. This definition refers to the amount consumed on any single day and is not intended as an average over several days. However, the Dietary Guidelines do not recommend that people who do not drink alcohol start drinking for any reason.
For men, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 15 drinks or more per week. For women, heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 8 drinks or more per week.
Excessive alcohol use includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, any alcohol use by people under the age 21 minimum legal drinking age, and any alcohol use by pregnant women.
Binge drinking is defined as a pattern of alcohol consumption that brings the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level to 0.08% or more. This pattern of drinking usually corresponds to 5 or more drinks on a single occasion for men or 4 or more drinks on a single occasion for women, generally within about 2 hours.
Before you think about checking nearly everyone you know into the Betty Ford Clinic, consider that about 90% of people who drink excessively would not be expected to meet the clinical diagnostic criteria for having a severe alcohol use disorder. A severe alcohol use disorder, previously known as alcohol dependence or alcoholism, is a chronic disease.
Some of the signs and symptoms of a severe alcohol use disorder could include:
- Inability to limit drinking.
- Continuing to drink despite personal or professional problems.
- Needing to drink more to get the same effect.
- Wanting a drink so badly you can’t think of anything else.
Mindfulness might be the key for many to cut back in consumption. As the pandemic continues and we head toward what many experts assess to be a difficult Fall and Winter, the increased consumption of alcohol as a coping method, albeit an unhealthy one, may continue its upward trend.
Mindfulness meditation teaches you to notice thoughts and emotions without judgment. In one study, participants were taught to pay attention to cravings instead of suppressing them, and that they did not need to act on cravings or sensations.
During the study, they drank significantly less than they had the previously. A control group who were taught a relaxation technique did not experience any change in their drinking. Although additional research is needed, mindfulness-based programs continue to demonstrate effectiveness in reducing stress and helping to manage a range of health conditions. Likewise, this may be a helpful tool for people wanting to change their drinking habits.
Note: this information is provided for information purposes only. If feel that you or someone you care about has a drinking or substance problem, contact a licensed health care provider immediately.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Alcohol Use Basics. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets.htm
Kamboj, S., Irez, D., Serfaty, S., Thomas, E., Das, R., & Freeman, T. (2017). Ultra-Brief Mindfulness Training Reduces Alcohol Consumption in At-Risk Drinkers: A Randomized Double-Blind Active-Controlled Experiment. Retrieved from https://academic.oup.com/ijnp/article/20/11/936/4060517
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). Drinking Levels Defined. Retrieved from https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20%22Dietary%20Guidelines,drinks%20per%20day%20for%20men.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at https://health.gov/our-work/food-and-nutrition/2015-2020-dietary-guidelines/