Have you ever told yourself you would take it easy on a night out, only to wake up with a serious hangover? Not to mention some major regrets about things you said and did the night before?
It happens. You don’t have to be addicted to alcohol to experience occasional problems with drinking. For some of us, the atmosphere of a night with friends, music, and free-flowing alcohol makes it tough to drink responsibly.
But it’s certainly possible to limit your drinking and enjoy yourself, with no hangover or regretful moments involved. In this post, we’ll talk about how to drink responsibly in social situations—and still have fun.
The Impact of Binge Drinking
Whether you drink alcohol often or occasionally, binge drinking is dangerous. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) defines binge drinking as drinking that brings blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 percent or higher. Men typically reach this point after five or more drinks in two hours. For women, this occurs after four or more drinks in the same time period.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), binge drinking is “the most common, costly, and deadly pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States.” Binge drinking can cause accidental injuries like falls, burns, car crashes, and alcohol poisoning. About 2,200 people die from alcohol poisoning every year in the United States. These deaths are preventable.
Other risks associated with binge drinking include violence, sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancy, miscarriage and stillbirth, fetal alcohol syndrome, and sudden infant death syndrome.
In the long run, frequent binge drinking may lead to chronic illnesses such as liver disease, heart disease, and high blood pressure. It’s also linked to several types of cancer, memory and learning problems, and stroke. Not to mention that consistently drinking to excess puts you at risk for developing an alcohol use disorder.
Then, there are the less measurable impacts of binge drinking. You might do something embarrassing that leaves you cringing later, or say something hurtful to a loved one. You may spend your night vomiting over the toilet—and your morning feeling hungover and regretful.
It’s common to regret overdrinking the morning after. But how can you keep control in the moment? Below are seven tips to help you stay on top of party drinking, and not overdo it.
7 Ways to Drink Responsibly When Out With Friends
1. Set a Limit
Once you grab a drink and get caught up in the atmosphere of a night out, it’s easy to forget all about responsible drinking. You may quickly find yourself saying, “One more won’t hurt,” and losing count of how many drinks you’ve had. That’s why it’s helpful to set a limit before you ever set foot in the party.
Before you leave your house, choose a maximum number of drinks. To choose wisely, you’ll need to know your own limits. After how many drinks do you begin to make poor choices or lose control? How much can you safely drink? If you aren’t sure, two drinks is a reasonable place to start.
If you need a reminder, try placing two coins in your back pocket (or as many coins as the number of drinks you plan to have). After each drink, move one of the coins to your front pocket. When your back pocket is empty, you’ll know that it’s time to stop drinking.
2. Eat and Hydrate
Make sure you eat something before you head out, especially if you’re unsure whether food will be served. Eating before you start drinking helps you absorb alcohol, slowing down the effects. It’s always best not to drink on an empty stomach.
Because alcohol dehydrates you, drinking water is another way to counteract its effects. Drink one glass of water after each alcoholic beverage. This makes it less likely that you’ll have a hangover. Plus, holding a drink discourages others from urging you to drink more.
Eating and hydrating will help you keep your wits about you, making it easier to stick to your limits and enjoy yourself safely.
3. Pace Yourself
Rotating alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages (preferably water) also helps you pace yourself. If you’re only planning to have two drinks, you don’t want to down them within the first ten minutes of the party! Take your time.
Regardless of the limit you’ve set, try to stick to one drink per hour. Sip drinks while talking or dancing, rather than hanging out at the bar taking shots. Pacing yourself gives you a chance to listen to your body, and better understand your limits.
4. Avoid the Hard Stuff
If shots or strong cocktails are usually your downfall, try switching to beer or wine. This doesn’t mean you should drink unlimited amounts of these beverages. But these drinks won’t “sneak up on you” like the harder stuff, making it easier to pace yourself.
Similarly, make sure you know what is in any drink you accept. For instance, someone may hand you a fruity mixed drink. You may drink it like juice, only to learn it was a majorly potent cocktail!
5. Have a Plan for Turning Down Drinks
If you feel uncomfortable turning down drinks, or concerned about peer pressure, plan a few phrases you can say, like:
- “No thanks, I’m pacing myself.”
- “I’m still working on this one.”
- “Taking it easy tonight, I’ve gotta be up early tomorrow.”
You can also drink water, soda, or even a mocktail. When others see you with a cup in your hand, they’re less likely to approach and offer you another drink.
6. Bring an Accountability Partner
Bring a trusted friend with you, ideally someone who also wants to drink responsibly. At the start of the night, tell the friend that you’re sticking to X amount of drinks, and you’d like to be held accountable. Offer to do the same for them. It’s not your friend’s job to babysit you, but it’s helpful to have someone saying, “Remember you were only going to drink three?” instead of buying you shots.
7. Consider a Moderation-Based Program
If you find that you overdrink frequently, and have trouble controlling it, consider an option like the Sinclair Method (TSM).
TSM uses a medication called naltrexone to help people reset their drinking habits. Taking naltrexone an hour before your first drink reduces the pleasurable effects of alcohol. This, in turn, can reduce your motivation to drink.
Over time, many people on TSM find that they lose interest in alcohol, while still being able to have a drink or two at a social event. This can be a good “middle ground” option if you don’t identify as an alcoholic, but still want some help in reducing your alcohol consumption.
Help With Keeping Party Drinking Under Control
It can be easy to get carried away in the moment when you’re out with friends. But if you notice that binge drinking has become a pattern for you, and that it’s hard to control on your own, there’s no shame in looking for help.
Ria Health’s online program offers support for the Sinclair Method, and an array of other solutions, 100 percent from an app on your smartphone. Our members set their own goals, and work towards them on their own schedule. You don’t have to identify as an alcoholic, or even quit completely. Best of all, the whole program is confidential, and doesn’t disrupt your daily life.