Harm Reduction Advice for Drinkers

Harm Reduction Advice for Drinkers

Sometimes it’s important to face reality. Ideally, alcoholics who realize they have a problem will be able to identify the issue and stop drinking. Realistically, things don’t always work out like that. Abstinence is a difficult goal to accomplish, and relapse is pretty common. It can happen for a whole host of reasons, and most treatment programs-whilst trying to prevent it-accept that it is often a part of the process. The problem is that abusive drinkers often have abusive patterns, and although the aim is simply to get drunk, the ways in which people drink often create collateral damage that can be avoided fairly easily.

What is Harm Reduction?

The harm reduction approach to recovery is basically an alternative to abstinence-based recovery. The argument is that forcing people who don’t want to stop drinking altogether into abstinence actually prevents them from getting clean, and by respecting their wishes you can do more long-term good. Instead of getting people who want to drink to stop, the approach aims to make the drinking as safe as possible, so whilst the addiction still exists it causes minimal damage. They encourage alcoholics to cut down, but don’t force them to make any changes if they don’t want to. Harm reduction services do things like provide clean needles for injecting drug users, because whilst some people don’t want to stop, they can still tackle the preventable risks.

Harm Reduction for Drinkers: The Rules

Watch Your Drinks

Drink-spiking is very real, and it’s easy to forget that there may be people lurking around in your favorite bar waiting to stick something in your drink. Keep it within your sight, and don’t let anybody you don’t know buy you or make you one. If you’re watching them, it’s less likely to happen without you realizing, but it only takes a momentary lapse to miss something slipped into your drink. It doesn’t matter if you’re a man or a woman, it can happen, and things can get a lot worse from there.

Keep a Condom with You

Although it isn’t a necessary consequence of a night on the town, unsafe sex is much more common when your inhibitions have been chemically lowered. It seems like there isn’t really much risk, and in the heat of the moment your drunken self is unlikely to go to the store for condoms. The solution to this problem is simple; carry one or two with you whenever you go out. Then you’ll always be prepared and you won’t have to worry about disease or unwanted pregnancy.

Use Public Transportation

Everybody knows you aren’t supposed to drink and drive, but your impaired decision-making abilities under the influence of alcohol can’t really be trusted. If you drive to a bar, your sober self will plan to catch a cab home, but your drunken self is sure it can still drive. No matter what your sober intentions, you make the important decision when you’re drunk. The best solution is to never drive to somewhere where you’re going to drink. Catch the bus, get a cab, get a ride from a friend-just don’t drive.

Eat Before You Drink

Drinking on an empty stomach, you are much more likely to result in blackouts, and you’ll pretty much guarantee yourself an awful hangover. Make sure you have a good meal before you head out drinking and you’ll feel better throughout the night and in the morning.

Drinking is Never a Race

You don’t have to keep pace with somebody throughout a night or chug an entire beer just because you party fouled on a drinking game. Drinking fast is a sure-fire way to blackout, and blackouts are never good. Even if they are, you won’t be able to remember it, so it’s a complete waste of time. Just pace yourself-you can designate a time period per drink if it makes it easier. If people you’re with are playing drinking games, just politely say you’re not up for it. Good friends will understand if you explain yourself. Taking sips and focusing on finding quality in your alcohol instead of quantity also helps.

Stay Hydrated

Hangovers are all about dehydration. Drinking a little water before you go to bed helps you feel better in the morning. If you have a non-alcoholic drink between your alcoholic ones when you’re drinking, you’ll avoid getting too drunk and blacking out.

Cut off Connections

When you’re drunk, you can say things you regret to people you shouldn’t say them to. Text messages, phone calls, Facebook messages and emails can all get you into trouble when you’re drunk. You could destroy a relationship, lose your job, or worse-it’s not worth the risk. Unplug your computer and switch off your phone. If you can, leave your phone at home-use a payphone to call yourself a cab if you need one.

Think About Yourself

The best advice is to think about your own habits. If you’re liable to mix prescription medicines or drugs with alcohol, lock everything away when you’re drinking and refuse any offers. Focus on the risks that are most relevant to you, and make a conscious effort to counteract them. Relapse is never ideal, but there is no need to expose yourself to the co-existing risks if you don’t have to. If you can avoid drinking altogether, that’s fantastic, but if you can’t you should at least be sensible about it.

Sources: http://hamsnetwork.org/safe_drinking/
http://hamsnetwork.org/students/
http://www.lmu.edu/Page25068.aspx

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