Ten Tips to Reduce Your Risk

Small changes can make a big difference in reducing your chances of having alcohol-related problems. Whatever strategies you choose, give them a fair trial. If one approach doesn't work, try something else.

  • Keep track. Find a way that works for you: make check marks on a kitchen calendar or enter notes in a mobile phone notepad. Keeping track of each drink before you drink it may help you slow down when needed.
  • Count and measure. Know the standard drink sizes so you can measure and count your drinks accurately. Away from home, you may be getting more alcohol than you think – especially with mixed drinks or when you’re in a situation where the host or server continues to “top off” a partially-filled glass.
  • Set goals. Decide how many days a week you want to drink and how many drinks you'll have on those days. It's a good idea to have some days when you don't drink. Drinkers with the lowest rates of alcohol use disorders stay within the low-risk limits.
  • Pace and space. When you do drink, pace yourself. Sip slowly. Have no more than one standard drink with alcohol per hour. Have "drink spacers"—make every other drink a non-alcoholic one, such as water, soda, or juice. Note that it takes about two hours for the adult body to completely break down a single drink.
  • Include food. Don't drink on an empty stomach. Eat some food so the alcohol will be absorbed into your system more slowly.
  • Find alternatives. If drinking has occupied a lot of your time, develop new, healthy activities, hobbies, and relationships; or, renew ones you've missed. If you have counted on alcohol to feel more comfortable in social situations, manage moods, or cope with problems, then seek other, healthy ways to deal with those areas of your life.
  • Avoid "triggers." What triggers your urge to drink? If certain people or places make you drink even when you don't want to, try to avoid them. If certain activities, times of day, or feelings trigger the urge, plan something else to do instead of drinking. If drinking at home is a problem, keep little or no alcohol there.
  • Plan to handle urges. When you cannot avoid a trigger and an urge hits, consider these options: Remind yourself of your reasons for changing; it can help to carry them in writing or store them in an electronic message you can access easily. Talk things through with someone you trust. Or, instead of fighting the feeling, accept it and ride it out without giving in, knowing that it will soon crest like a wave and pass. Click here for more tips to help you handle urges to drink.
  • Know your "no." You're likely to be offered a drink at times when you don't want one. Have a polite, convincing "no, thanks" ready. The faster you can say no to these offers, the less likely you are to give in. If you hesitate, it allows you time to think of excuses to go along. Click here for more ways to build drink refusal skills
  • Seek support. If you haven’t made progress in cutting down after two or three months, consider seeking additional support.

For some people, staying within low-risk limits will be sufficient, whereas for others, it's best to quit. To help decide which route is right for you, see To cut down or quit.