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What is the Best Way to Cut
Down on My Drinking?

by Reid K. Hester, Ph.D.

I have started to wonder whether I should cut back on my drinking. I'll usually have somewhere between 4 to 6 beers 4 to 5 nights a week. I'm in my 30's now and am concerned whether my drinking might be increasing my risk for health problems. I don't consider myself an alcoholic and don't want to stop altogether. How can I learn how to cut down?

I' ve got good news and bad news. The bad news is that your level of drinking increases your risk for health and other alcohol-related problems. The good news is that you can change your drinking if you decide to do it. Many people can and do cut down on their drinking while others find it easier to quit altogether. The first step is to look at your motivations. Moderating or quitting drinking to feel better and reduce your risk for health problems are good reasons. Consider others. What could you do with the money you saved if you cut back or stopped? Would you spend more time with your spouse and/or kids if you changed your drinking? Could you be more productive at home or work?

If you decide to cut down, set a goal. The World Health Organization recommends a limit of no more than 3 beers per day and no more than 12 per week. If you're going to moderate, keep track of your drinking and drink more slowly. Reward yourself for progress in achieving your goals, but not with drinking! Look at situations where you drink over your limits and figure out new ways to deal with these situations. If you go over your limits, learn from your mistakes.

If you want some help, you have several choices. First, there is a self-help group called Moderation Management. You can call their headquarters at 313-677-6007 and see if there's a group near you. Or there's a Moderation Management website that is worth consulting. They are to be found here: http://www.moderation.org/.

About the Author:

Reid K. Hester, Ph.D., Director, Research Division, Behavior Therapy Associates, 3810 Osuna Rd., NE Suite 1, Albuquerque, NM 87109. Phone: 505.345.6100.

Originally published 2/19/98
Revised 8/15/08 by Marlene M. Maheu, Ph.D.
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