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Are You a Responsible Drinker?

While alcohol use is accepted in our society, it is critical for each of us to achieve a responsible approach to social drinking. This approach can best be achieved through several methods. These include:

  • Thinking about our drinking behavior;
  • Increasing our self-control; and
  • Becoming aware of things that occur before we choose to drink.

Thinking About Drinking

There comes a time when every drinker must gaze into the mirror and ask:

  • “Why do I drink?”
  • “Do I drink too much?” and
  • “How can I stop?”

Abstinence—that is, not drinking at all—is very difficult to achieve in our society, since outside influences contribute to our drinking behavior. Unlike other self-destructive habits, however, alcohol use is socially acceptable. In fact, drinking has become a routine part of many of our daily activities, including business luncheons, evening parties, and visiting with friends. Even occasional drunkenness is tolerated in many circles.

Drinking is so ingrained in our culture that to refrain from it may be seen as a denial of that culture or an admission that we cannot conform to what is socially acceptable. To refuse a drink when offered, however, is a step in the direction of self-control.

Increasing Self-Control

Self-control is key when it comes to drinking. Counselors can facilitate your efforts to control this behavior, but just wanting to have more control does not solve the problem. You are the only person who controls your drinking.

So, how do we control our own drinking? Counselors generally focus on several self-help or self-control skills. These include:

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  • Changing what happens before you drink (more on this later);
  • Changing the rate at which you drink, so that you drink less overall;
  • Choosing drinks with a lower concentration of alcohol; or
  • Finding other ways to achieve the relaxing effects of alcohol to reduce or eliminate drinking entirely.

Recognizing Antecedents

You have probably noticed that in certain situations you tend to drink more, while in others you are likely to control your drinking. This is no accident. The situation around you can influence your drinking, particularly if you are unaware of its influence. These situations or environments that influence drinking are called antecedents.

Antecedents are present and are operating every time you have a drink. Some of the antecedents that can influence your drinking are:

  • Where you do your drinking;
  • The people with whom you do your drinking;
  • The time of day you do your drinking;
  • Your hunger or thirst when you do your drinking;
  • How much money you have when you do your drinking;
  • How you feel inside when you do your drinking; and
  • What else you are doing while you do your drinking.

Emotions Trigger Drinking

Emotions seem to trigger drinking in many people. Sometimes, responsible drinking may relieve tension or anxiety, but caution must be exercised. Alcohol as a drug can provide temporary relief from unpleasant feelings, but can also produce depression. Depression can lead to increasing use of alcohol and result in alcohol dependence, or alcoholism.

The Problem of Drinking and Driving

When people drink and drive, they are given a lethal weapon to maim or kill themselves and others. While alcohol use is socially acceptable, drinking while driving is not. It is known that about 50 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities are related to alcohol consumption. Current Motor Vehicle Administration statistics reveal that if a driver is cited the first time for a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offense, there is a 75 percent chance that person is in the early stages of alcoholism. But if that same person is cited for a second DWI offense, there is a 90 percent chance that they suffer from alcoholism.

Address Problem Drinking: Save Your Life and the Lives of Others

Clearly, there are a number of things that can influence whether you choose to drink, become a responsible drinker, abuse alcohol, or become dependent on it and suffer the inevitable destruction associated with such behavior.

Many people benefit from the services of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) if they have questions about their drinking or need help to stop drinking. In terms of professional services, trained counselors certified in addictions can be of particular help to individuals and their families as they explore drinking behavior and how best to respond to it.

Whatever choice is made, however, the key is to identify and address problem drinking before it brings harm to the drinker, to family and friends, and to society more generally.

Are You a Responsible Drinker?

Norm Cohen

APA Reference
Cohen, N. (2020). Are You a Responsible Drinker?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 19, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.