Harm Reduction Around Alcohol

March in Chicago brings Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations, and the promise of baseball home openers. The city starts to look ahead to summer street festivals, and days spent by the lake. For many people, its also a time of heavy drinking. The spring brings an opportunity to experience a feeling of renewal and being mindful of when and how much alcohol you are consuming.

How much is too much?

A great place to start is to track how much alcohol you are consuming. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), binge drinking is defined as 4 or more drinks during a day/evening for women and 5 or more for men. Heavy drinking would be a women consuming over 8 drinks during the course of the week, and men consuming over 15 drinks a week. Many may wonder, why is the amount someone consumes important?

Why does it matter if I drink?

Alcohol consumption has the following health risks: liver disease, learning and memory problems, high blood pressure, increased risk of a stroke, and heart disease. During the short term alcohol consumption can increase depression, anxiety, risky behaviors (drinking and driving), and problems in relationships with others.

How can I safely limit my drinking?

  • Instead of starting the day with a Bloody Mary or Mimosa, enjoy the fruit juice sans alcohol! Waiting until later in the afternoon to start drinking will help you fully enjoy the day.
  • Enjoy a Guinness or PBR! When drinking, select beers that have lower alcohol contents. Guinness has 4.3% alcohol by volume! Avoid cocktails, wine, or high alcohol by volume craft beers.
  • Enjoy a feast before you drink! Typically, you are more likely to drink slower on a full stomach. Additionally, drinking after a meal helps slow the absorption of alcohol. So eat first, then drink, and be merry!
  • Water, water, water! Drink plenty of water! An easy way to stay hydrated is to drink a full glass of water between each beer.
  • Make the day a social affair, take a friend with you! The buddy system is a great way to ensure you, and your friend, both make it home safely. Stay together and do not leave a friend behind! Safety in numbers!
  • Get a Lyft! Take the bus! Hop on the train! Don’t drink and drive. Have some cash on hand for the CTA or to get a taxi.

How can I enjoy the spring without alcohol?

  • Explore the past at one of Chicago’s museums! The city has some of the finest museums in the world. Why not spend a day learning and exploring at the Field Museum, or Museum of Science and Industry?
  • Throw a “Mocktail Party.”Not all celebrations need to include alcohol. Why not explore what mocktails have to offer! Here are 30 yummy recipes to try curtesy of Town and Country Magazine http://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/drinks/how-to/g785/best-mocktail- recipes/?
  • Get outside and move! The longer days bring great opportunities to enjoy a walk, run, or bike ride! Celebrate the spring with fresh air and movement.
  • Try something new and great creative! The spring is a great time to invest in yourself.
  • Learn and instrument, take up pottery, or join a book club. The spring is a wonderful time to connect more deeply to your authentic self.
  • Make a difference. Giving to your community is a wonderful way to meet new people and make your voice heard. Consider volunteering for a cause or organization you think does great work. An engaged life is more rewarding than any evening drinking could ever be!

If you or a loved one struggles with substance abuse or misuse please consider contacting the following resources:

Substance Use and Mental Health Helpline 1-800- 662-HELP (4357)

Alcoholics Anonymous www.aa.org

Al-Anon Family Groups www.al-anon.org

The Recovery Village https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/alcohol-abuse/