Harry S. Truman Memorial Veterans’ Hospital
Limit Alcohol: Staying in Control
Drinking alcoholic beverages is considered socially acceptable in our society. Yet, it is easy to forget that alcohol, while legal, is a powerful drug that can interfere with a person’s thinking and judgment - and lead to serious social, legal and health problems.
Most of us know people who choose not to drink alcohol. They may be recovering from alcohol dependence and have learned through painful experiences that their lives are better without drinking alcohol. Some Veterans can enjoy an occasional alcoholic beverage without any negative consequences.
If you choose to drink, it pays to be cautious and on guard against the potential for alcohol use to turn into abuse or dependence. The National Institutes of Health has a very useful website called “Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol & Your Health” (see link below) that offers tips on staying in control of alcohol consumption, so it doesn’t end up controlling you. Some of these tips include:
- Keep Track. Don’t lose track of how much alcohol is being consumed over a period of time. Make notes or keep a checklist of each drink to help you slow down when needed.
- Count and Measure. Know the standard drink serving sizes (12 fluid oz. of regular beer; 5 fluid oz. of table wine; 1.5 fluid oz. of distilled spirits). Measure your drinks and avoid “topping off” partially filled glasses.
- Set Goals and Limits. Decide how many days a week you intend to drink and how many drinks you will have in a day. Have some days where you drink nothing. Plan to stay within low-risk limits to avoid alcohol related problems.
- Pace and Space. Pace yourself. Sip slowly. Have no more than one standard drink of alcohol per hour. Use “spacers” in which every other drink is a non-alcoholic drink.
- Include food. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Food slows the body’s absorption of alcohol.
- Know your “No.” It is okay to refuse a drink offer without being impolite. If you have had enough, say “thanks, but no thanks.”
Remember, even “social drinking” can become “risky drinking.” Misuse of alcohol does not necessarily mean someone is alcohol-dependent or an “alcoholic.” Yet, risky drinking is unhealthy drinking and can cause serious health problems.
Be sure to let your health care provider know about any alcohol use. Veterans often decide to cut back or limit their alcohol once they know how it is affecting their health. If you are concerned about your drinking, talk to your VA health care provider or call the Truman VA Behavioral Health Service at 573-814-6486. Help is available.
To learn more about how alcohol can affect your health, visit: