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Alcohol: Friend or Foe?

Psychology ONE Alcohol Abuse

It is a typical Australian tradition – having a drink with friends. As the countdown to the holiday season commences, alcohol use often increases. There is nothing wrong with enjoying alcohol in moderation, but for some people, alcohol use becomes alcohol abuse. People drink for many reasons; to celebrate, to relax, to be social, or in ceremonies, such as toasting at a wedding. Alcohol has grown into a sometimes important part of Australian culture. But alcohol is a problem when a person drinks more than they intended to, or increases use due to increased tolerance, or uses it to cope with their feelings or experiences, or is drinking to make or maintain relationships. Additionally, alcohol is problematic if it has caused issues with the law (e.g. drink driving), within relationships, with finances (e.g. costing too much money), in meeting obligations such as work or home, or if social activities are organised around drinking rather than being an inclusion (see the associated story on ABC: ). Some people experience withdrawals if they do not drink, including feeling sick or moody; and other people experience “black-outs” when drinking heavily. A black-out is the loss of memory, generally following drinking quickly or a “binge”. Both of these experiences are a good indicator that alcohol is a problem. If some of these warning signs apply to you, read on for some tips on how to cut down on your alcohol use. 

  • Shorten the amount of time that you have to drink – if you regularly start drinking at 5 pm, delay for an hour or so. Do something else for the hour to distract yourself, such as going for a walk or having a snack. You may find yourself craving a drink, in which case, delaying for a shorter period initially and then extending as you can is better than doing nothing.  
  • Consider if you have triggers, such as having a bad day at work, or even having a good day at work. Find other ways to relax, celebrate, and cope with difficult feelings.
  • Set a drink limit for social occasions. Space out your drinks to achieve this, drinking more slowly, or drinking a non-alcoholic drink in between alcoholic drinks. Try to combine drinking with eating, which will assist with the absorption of alcohol. 
  • Sometimes friends are not helpful in your efforts, especially if they are used to you drinking more. Consider whether you will tell friends you are cutting down or stopping and if so, ask for their support – you may need to practice what you will say to them or how to say no to extra drinks. You may consider meeting friends for a meal or other activities rather than “just for a drink”.
  • Set goals for how much you want to drink, along with how many alcohol-free days you will have per week – aim for at least two non-drinking days. Keep track of your drinks on paper or an app; you may be surprised how much it adds up. Be mindful with your drinking by slowing it down and enjoying the taste rather than knocking them back.
  • Reward your success with a non-alcohol treat, such as seeing a movie, or buying yourself an item of clothing. The real benefits of cutting down on alcohol are improved health and wellbeing, but cutting down will save you money too!  

If you find it challenging to cut down, you may need to seek extra help. See your GP in that case or call Alcohol and Other Drug Services (AODS) on (07) 5319 4899. There are certain medications prescribed by a GP that can help you reduce cravings or avoid alcohol entirely. AODS can link you in with individual counsellors and/or group sessions depending on your needs. It is not a weakness to admit needing help and to reach out. Your mind and body will thank you for it! 


Australian Psychological Society

Very Well Mind

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Sharon Connell

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