How to Stop Binge Drinking: 17 Strategies to Help You Today
Last Updated: December 22, 2023
If your binge drinking problem has gotten out of control, seeking treatment for binge drinking can help you reduce the negative influence of alcohol in your life.
Binge drinking is relatively common, so people may think this behavior is harmless. In fact, 21.5% of Americans aged 12 and older engage in binge drinking in a given month, according to a report from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. While binge drinking is a regular practice, it does not mean it is safe; it can actually have serious consequences. If you’re looking for information on how to stop binge drinking, helpful resources are available.
What Is Binge Drinking?
The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a man consuming five or more drinks at once or a woman consuming four or more drinks on one occasion. This is a level of drinking that exceeds “drinking in moderation” and brings the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to .08% or above.
Signs Your Binge Drinking Is Getting Out of Control
Binge drinking doesn’t mean someone has an alcohol addiction. However, regular binge drinking increases the risk that someone will develop an alcohol use disorder, which is the clinical term for alcohol addiction.
Signs that a binge drinking problem is out of control include:
- Heavy alcohol use (binge drinking five or more times over a month)
- Experiencing negative consequences from binge drinking, such as accidents or injuries from risky behavior while intoxicated
- Frequently spending time with others who binge drink and most social functions involve drinking to the point of intoxication
- Binge drinking as a coping mechanism for stress, anxiety or depression
- Difficulty cutting back on drinking or losing control over the amount of alcohol consumed suggests you may be developing an alcohol use disorder
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17 Strategies to Stop Binge Drinking
- Calculate how much you can drink.
Using a drink calculator to determine how much alcohol you’re consuming can help keep your drinking within a reasonable limit. A standard drink contains a certain amount of alcohol. So, the amount you’re pouring into a single glass or cup may be more than a standard drink.
Per government guidelines, a standard drink contains about 14 grams of pure alcohol, and this amount can be found in 12 ounces of regular beer, 5 ounces of wine and 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. Use the standard drink calculator here to determine how many drinks you’re really having.
- Set a strict limit.
For women, binge drinking is defined as four or more drinks on one occasion, and for men, binge drinking begins at five or more drinks. To avoid falling into the binge drinking trap:
- Set a limit for yourself when you’re out at the bar or attending a special event, and stick to it.
- Be sure not to exceed four drinks if you’re male and three if you’re female.
- Remember to stick to weekly limits of no more than 14 drinks for males and seven for females.
- Wait to drink.
Events in which alcohol is consumed early in the day make binge drinking easier. If you’ve been drinking all day, by the end of the night, you’ll have consumed an excessive amount of drinks throughout the day. Instead of drinking right away at social gatherings, wait a few hours to have your first sip of alcohol, especially if the gathering begins early or mid-afternoon.
- Choose drinks with lower alcohol content.
Beer is about 5% alcohol by volume, compared to wine, which contains 12% alcohol, and spirits, which are 40% alcohol. Choosing drinks with a lower alcohol content will reduce your risk of binge drinking because you’ll be more likely to stay within the limits of a single drink. For instance, if you’re consuming mixed drinks that contain distilled spirits, you can easily consume two to three standard drinks within a single cup.
- Eat before or while drinking.
Having something to eat before you drink or while drinking can also reduce your consumption. Food will fill you up, so you’re less likely to overindulge. Taking time to eat will also stop you from drinking quickly and exceeding your drinking limits.
- Drink more water.
Sometimes, binge drinking can happen out of habit; when you’re at a social gathering, you might feel as if you always need to have a drink in hand. Instead of ordering another drink, have a glass of water between alcoholic beverages. This will slow the pace of your alcohol consumption and reduce the risk of overindulgence.
- Alternate with soft drinks or non-alcoholic beverages.
If water seems too plain, choose another non-alcoholic beverage, such as a soft drink, and alternate this drink with alcoholic beverages. Like drinking water, pausing for a soft drink will slow the pace of alcohol consumption so you can stick to a reasonable limit.
- Take small sips.
If limiting yourself to just a few drinks seems impossible, try taking smaller sips. Perhaps you’re used to “chugging,” which can quickly lead to consuming more than intended. Taking smaller sips allows a single drink to last longer, so you won’t be frequently going back to the bar for another.
- Skip places you associate with excess drinking.
There may be certain settings in which your binge drinking is more out of control. If this is the case, it may be best to avoid such settings. For instance, maybe certain restaurants or bars have been a setting for repeated episodes of binge drinking in the past. Or perhaps certain social contexts like birthday parties or holiday celebrations may be problematic for you.
If you find that certain places or events tend to lead you to drink too much, it may be best to avoid them for now. This can help you manage your drinking until you feel more confident in your ability to control it.
- Avoid hanging out with people who encourage excessive drinking.
Peer pressure can also be a risk factor for binge drinking. Deciding to cut back on drinking is the best option for your health and well-being, but some friends and loved ones may not appreciate that. If there are people in your life who pressure you to drink more or give you a hard time about drinking in moderation, it’s probably time to stop hanging out with them.
- Try breakfast, lunch or brunch instead of an evening out.
Meeting up for drinks in the evening can become a habit, but this isn’t the only way to relax and catch up with friends. Instead of centering every gathering on alcohol, consider meeting friends for breakfast or lunch. This allows you to socialize without putting yourself in a situation where binge drinking is normalized.
- Don’t keep alcohol in your home.
If you find yourself binge drinking while you’re alone at home, your alcohol consumption may reflect a larger problem. Drinking excessively out of habit in social settings can occur because of peer pressure or because the behavior is normalized.
But if you find that you lose control of your drinking, even at home, it’s possible that you’ve developed an alcohol addiction. In this case, reaching out for professional treatment can help you overcome the negative effects of alcohol misuse, and it’s probably best to remove alcohol from your home.
- Consider why you drink excessively.
Binge drinking can sometimes be a way to cope with stress or to deal with uncomfortable emotions. Getting to the root of your binge drinking can help you identify triggers so you can cope with them in a healthier way. For instance, if you learn that you tend to binge drink when you’re feeling anxious or dealing with conflict at work, you can develop alternative coping strategies, such as calling a friend, exercising or planning a relaxing activity.
- Journal your drinking habits.
Keeping track of your drinking habits in a journal can help you to identify patterns and also determine whether you are staying within recommended drinking limits. Use a journal to record how much you’re drinking and how you’re feeling at the times you drink.
Be sure to use a standard drink calculator to accurately record the number of drinks you’re consuming. This journal can also track times when you’re more likely to drink, as well as times when you do a better job of moderating your drinking.
- Try a hobby.
You might recognize that binge drinking has become a habit or a way to relieve boredom. If this is the case, trying a new hobby can help you fill your time with activities not centered around drinking. You might consider learning a new skill, joining a sports team or immersing yourself in new music or books to fill your time.
- Enlist support and accountability from friends and family.
Think of trusted family members or friends willing to abstain from drinking or drink only in moderation. Then, tell them your plans to cut back on binge drinking. These individuals can hold you accountable when you’re out at a gathering, and they’ll likely be willing to participate with you in activities that do not involve alcohol consumption.
- Seek professional treatment.
If you’ve made several attempts to cut back on binge drinking, but you find that you still cannot control your alcohol use, or you end up drinking more than intended, you may have an alcohol use disorder. If this is the case, it’s important to seek professional treatment.
Some binge drinkers may be able to reduce their drinking to healthy levels on their own, but if binge drinking occurs within the context of addiction, professional treatment is warranted because it will be difficult to reduce drinking on your own.
Treatment for Binge Drinking
Treatment options and skilled professionals are available if you cannot stop binge drinking. If you find that you are unable to cut back on your drinking, reaching out for help as soon as you recognize the problem can help you overcome the negative effects of binge drinking.
Moderating Your Drinking with a Therapist
The first thing to consider is whether you’d like to try to moderate your drinking levels or abstain completely. Learning to stop binge drinking and drink only in moderation can be beneficial if you do not have an alcohol addiction.
On the other hand, if your problem with binge drinking is related to an addiction, you will likely need to work with a treatment professional to learn how to abstain completely from drinking. For those in the Florida area, Orlando Recovery Center Drug and Alcohol Rehab can offer the support you need to cut back on drinking. We offer a full range of treatment services.
If frequent binge drinking is becoming a problem, but your symptoms do not rise to the level of an alcohol use disorder, you may be able to make a conscious effort to cut back to a moderate level of drinking, defined as up to two drinks daily for men or one drink per day for women. If drinking in moderation is a suitable option for you, a counselor or therapist can work with you to help you set drinking goals. This means you must track your drinking habits and self-assess whether you are meeting your goals.
Drinking in moderation will require you to establish a goal for the maximum number of drinks allowed daily and weekly. You may set a goal to have a certain number of abstinent days per week. A therapist can teach you behavioral strategies like substituting other drinks for alcohol or having a glass of water between drinks to help you stick to your moderate drinking goals.
Formal Treatment Programs for Binge Drinking
Some people can cut back on binge drinking and drink moderately. However, those who struggle with alcohol addiction will need professional help to stop drinking entirely. This help can come from a formal treatment program. Treatment programs can be inpatient, where people stay in a facility, or outpatient, where they live at home but visit a treatment center regularly. People may receive behavioral treatments like counseling and take medication to help reduce cravings. Support groups can also be beneficial.
Treatment for a severe alcohol use disorder should begin with a medical detox program to help manage withdrawal symptoms. In some cases, alcohol withdrawal can be potentially fatal, so it’s important to always consult a doctor before detoxing from alcohol. Staff in a medical detox program can monitor withdrawal symptoms and provide medication to treat severe side effects.
When Is Rehab for Binge Drinking Necessary?
Since binge drinking is so normalized, it may be difficult to determine when it’s time to seek help. Even if others around you are drinking socially, binge drinking becomes a problem when it’s interfering with your relationships and/or functioning in important areas of life, such as school or work.
If you’re experiencing negative consequences from drinking and cannot stop on your own, it’s probably time to seek treatment.
Signs may develop showing that binge drinking is becoming an alcohol use disorder, which is the clinical term for an alcohol addiction.
Signs that you would benefit from professional treatment include:
- You’ve developed a high tolerance for alcohol and need large quantities to achieve the same desired effects from drinking.
- You experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, like shakiness, nausea or sweating, when not drinking.
- You end up drinking larger amounts than you intend to consume.
- You have extreme alcohol cravings throughout the day.
- You continue to drink, even when it worsens your health problems.
- You drink in dangerous situations, such as driving under the influence.
- You have arguments with your spouse or significant other about your alcohol consumption but continue to drink anyway.
- You’re giving up other activities in favor of drinking and spending significant time drinking or recovering from being drunk.
- You cannot function at work or care for your family because of alcohol consumption.
- You’ve tried to stop or cut back on your drinking but have been unsuccessful.
Ready To Stop Binge Drinking?
Recovery Advocates at Orlando Recovery Center are here to answer any questions, verify your insurance benefits, and find the best treatment path that fits your needs. You are not destined to repeat the same binge drinking cycle that has been keeping you down. We have resources available to help you today.
If you’re looking for binge drinking counseling, Orlando Recovery Cente Drug and Alcohol Rehab has a range of alcohol rehab options. We offer comprehensive alcohol treatment services, including outpatient programming for those who must continue living at home while attending treatment. For those with more intensive needs, we have an inpatient rehab program and a medical detox program to support you through withdrawal.
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