You may consider how to stop drinking alcohol. Since alcohol is relatively easy to get, legal to consume for those 21 and older, and is somewhat socially acceptable, it is one of the most widely-used intoxicating substances. Although not everyone who drinks alcohol will become addicted, it’s important to understand the risks of heavy and binge drinking in order to prevent the development of an AUD.
In the U.S., 220 million people age 17 and older reported having consumed alcohol in their lifetime according to the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH).1 The United States Census Bureau estimates that in 2018, there were more than 327 million people residing in the nation.2 Given today’s current population and the prevalence of alcohol use among Americans, it’s not surprising to learn that more than 18 million people aged 18 and older had an alcohol use disorder (AUD) or alcoholism in 2017.3
The 2017 NSDUH also states that 24.5% of the population aged 12 and older reported binge drinking in the past month, with 1 in 6 adults binge drinking around 4 times per month.12 According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), binge drinking is defined as 4 or more drinks for females and 5 or more drinks for males on at least one day in the past month.4 Heavy alcohol use is defined as binge drinking on 5 or more days in the past month.4
What is a Standard Drink?
Some people may be unaware that their “regular” amount of alcohol consumption may already be approaching problematic levels. It’s feasible that some of these Issues with gauging drinking are added to by the fact that it’s somewhat difficult to understand what a standard drink is and how much drinking is considered “moderate. In the United States, a standard drink contains 0.6 fluid ounces of pure alcohol which is found in:5
- 12-ounces of beer (5% alcohol content).
- 8-ounces of malt liquor (7% alcohol content).
- 5-ounces of wine (12% alcohol content).
- 5-ounces of 80-proof (40% alcohol content) distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., vodka, whiskey, gin, rum).
Heavy drinking is typically defined as consuming 15 drinks or more per week for men or 8 drinks or more per week for women.12 According to the NIAAA, binge drinking entails a pattern of alcohol consumption that results in blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels of 0.08 g/dL and above.4 For adult men, that’s usually around 5 drinks in a couple of hours, and for adult women, it’s generally about 4.4
Defining Alcohol Use Disorder
AUD or alcoholism is a chronic, relapsing disease that is diagnosed based on an individual meeting certain criteria outlined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).6 To be diagnosed with AUD, individuals must meet any two of the below criteria within the same 12-month period:6
- There have been several times when you drank more than you intended or for longer than you intended.
- You spend a lot of time drinking, and/or feeling sick the next day because of drinking.
- You tried to stop drinking more than once, but you were unable to do so.
- You experienced cravings for alcohol.
- Drinking or being sick from drinking interfered with work, family responsibilities, school, or social engagements.
- You continued to drink despite consequences at work, at school, with family, etc.
- You cut back on hobbies or activities that were important to you, so you could drink instead.
- You continued to drink despite changes to mood, such as depression or anxiety, or drinking too much began to affect other aspects of your mental or physical health. Alternately, you suffered more than one memory blackout.
- You drank even though doing so increased your chances of getting hurt, such as drinking before driving.
- You continue to drink even though you feel like you need to drink more to achieve the original effects.
- You experienced withdrawal, including physical symptoms, when you did not drink.
How To Stop Drinking Alcohol
While no single form of rehabilitation will be an appropriate fit for everyone, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) outlines several principles of effective treatment for treating drug and alcohol addiction.7 Many alcohol addiction treatment programs operate with similar principles. In general, treatment for AUD will include:
When making attempts to quit drinking, a medical detox is often the starting place on the road to recovery. Detoxing from alcohol can be unpleasant the associated acute alcohol withdrawal syndrome can be life-threatening when left unmanaged. However, proper medical management can help ease any discomfort and/or address serious complications that may occur. The process involves medical supervision and medication to help you stay as safe and comfortable as possible while dealing with the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.8 At a medical detox facility, you can expect to receive 24-hour supervision, monitoring and, when needed, appropriate medical intervention.9
Depending on your needed level of treatment, you may be treated in an inpatient or outpatient setting. Inpatient rehabilitation programs include both short- (28 or 30 days) and longer-term (90+ days) programs.10 In an inpatient or residential setting, patients live at the treatment facility while receiving round-the-clock supervision and support from staff and their peers.10
In outpatient programs, those working toward recovery live at home or other outside residences while receiving addiction treatment.9,10 Though these programs only require attendance during treatment sessions, they may vary in intensity and time commitment. Programming can range from hour-long sessions a few times a week to several hours per day.
Regardless of setting, all treatment plans offer a variety of recovery programming such as individual and group counseling, coping skills education, and relapse prevention techniques. Individuals may also participate in behavioral therapies (i.e., Cognitive Behavior Therapy, Motivational Enhancement Therapy) designed to change maladaptive thoughts and behaviors, promote stress management and effective coping mechanisms, and decrease relapse risks.9,10
Following the successful completion of a rehabilitation program, it is important to find avenues of continued support to improve chances of avoiding relapse and remaining sober. For many, maintaining sobriety is a lifelong process that requires commitment, self-compassion, and patience—all of which may benefit from ongoing support via aftercare services. According to the Substance and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 84% of treatment facilities offer aftercare services,11 and those that don’t will typically help alumni devise an aftercare plan prior to program completion. Some of the more commonly utilized aftercare services include 12-Step meetings (AA), regular sessions with a counselor or therapist, sober living residences, and non-12-Step groups like SMART Recovery.
Ready To Take the Next Step?
American Addiction Centers can improve treatment outcomes for those in recovery for alcohol use disorder. Find out if you or your loved one's insurance covers treatment at an American Addiction Centers facility by filling out the form below:
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2018). Results from the 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health: Detailed Tables.
. United States Census Bureau. (2018). Quick Facts – United States.
. MedlinePlus. (2019). Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse.
. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2019). Drinking Levels Defined.
. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (n.d.). What Is A Standard Drink?
. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.). American Psychiatric Publishing; 490-491.
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2018). Principles of Effective Treatment. Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition).
. National Institute on Drug Abuse. (2016). 8: Medical Detoxification.
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2006). Detoxification and Substance Abuse Treatment. Treatment Improvement Protocol (TIP) Series, No. 45.
. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism. (3rd ed.). (2015). Principles of Drug Addiction Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition). Types of Treatment Programs.
. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. (2014). The N-SSATS Report: Recovery Services Provided by Substance Abuse Treatment Facilities in the United States
. Centers for Disease Control Prevention. (2018). Fact Sheets - Binge Drinking.