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Festive holiday drinking harm reduction.

How To Reduce The Harm Of Festive Drinking (Without Abstaining)

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How To Reduce The Harm Of Festive Drinking

Not drinking alcohol is—of course—the best way to avoid the harmful effects of alcohol. However, not everyone wants to abstain, especially at this time of year, so today we’re going to be focusing on harm reduction without abstinence.

If you do want to quit (or even reduce) drinking, you might like our previous article about that:

How To Reduce Or Quit Alcohol

For everyone else, let’s press on with harm reduction:

Before You Drink

A common (reasonable, but often unhelpful) advice is “set yourself a limit”. The problem with this is that when we’re sober, “I will drink no more than n drinks” is easy. After the first drink, we start to feel differently about it.

So: delay your first drink of the day for as long as possible

That’s it, that’s the tip. The later you start drinking, not only will you likely drink less, but also, your liver will have had longer to finish processing whatever you drank last night, so it’s coming at the new drink(s) fresh.

On that note…

Watch your meds! Often, especially if we are taking medications that also tax our liver (acetaminophen / paracetamol / Tylenol is a fine example of this), we are at risk of having a bit of a build-up, like an office printer that still chewing on the last job while you’re trying to print the next.

Additionally: do indeed eat before you drink.

While You Drink

Do your best to drink slowly. While this can hit the same kind of problem as the “set yourself a limit” idea, in that once you start drinking you forget to drink slowly, it’s something to try for.

If your main reason for drinking is the social aspect, then merely having a drink in your hand is generally sufficient. You don’t need to be keeping pace with anyone.

It is further good to alternate your drinks with water. As in, between each alcoholic drink, have a glass of water. This helps in several ways:

  • Hydrates you, which is good for your body’s recovery abilities
  • Halves the amount of time you spend drinking
  • Makes you less thirsty; it’s easy to think “I’m thirsty” and reach for an alcoholic drink that won’t actually help. So, it may slow down your drinking for that reason, too.

At the dinner table especially, it’s very reasonable to have two glasses, one filled with water. Nobody will be paying attention to which glass you drink from more often.

After You Drink

Even if you are not drunk, assume that you are.

Anything you wouldn’t let a drunk person in your care do, don’t do. Now is not the time to drive, have a shower, or do anything you wouldn’t let a child do in the kitchen.

Hospital Emergency Rooms, every year around this time, get filled up with people who thought they were fine and then had some accident.

The biggest risks from alcohol are:

  1. Accidents
  2. Heart attacks
  3. Things actually popularly associated with alcohol, e.g. alcohol poisoning etc

So, avoiding accidents is as important as, if not more important than, avoiding damage to your liver.

Drink some water, and eat something.

Fruit is great, as it restocks you on vitamins, minerals, and water, while being very easy to digest.

Go to bed.

There is a limit to how much trouble you can get into there. Sleep it off.

In the morning, do not do “hair of the dog”; drinking alcohol will temporarily alleviate a hangover, but only because it kicks your liver back into an earlier stage of processing the alcohol—it just prolongs the inevitable.

Have a good breakfast, instead. Remember, fruit is your friend (as explained above).

Want to know more?

Here’s a great service with a lot of further links to a lot more resources:

With You | How to safely detox from alcohol at home

Take care!

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