Reducing the Risks of Alcohol Misuse

The idea of abstinence can be scary for someone struggling with alcohol use, or even someone who has a healthy relationship with alcohol! The good news is that even taking small steps to create healthier habits can help you or a loved one avoid the harmful risks of alcohol misuse. In general, it’s important to be aware of what’s healthy and what might be putting you at risk, and to check in with yourself regularly if you think your habits are leaning towards being more harmful than healthy.

Here are some simple recommendations to consider.


Know the consequences of excessive alcohol consumption.

Heavy drinking can contribute to or worsen a range of health issues including depression, heart disease, sleep disorders, high blood pressure, birth defects, stroke, liver disease, and cancer. Strong evidence links as little as one or two drinks per day to increased risk for multiple types of cancer.

Don’t keep alcohol in your home.

By limiting your access to alcohol, you decrease the opportunity for relying on alcohol in times of stress, boredom, loneliness, exhaustion, or other common triggers.

Know low-risk drinking limits.

The National Institute on Alcohol Use and Alcoholism (NIAAA) recommends females drink no more than 7 drinks per week, and no more than 3 drinks in one day. Males are recommended to drink fewer than 14 drinks per week, and no more than 4 drinks per day. While studies have shown biology and assignment of sex at birth play a part in the way our bodies metabolize alcohol, these recommendations vary according to health issues and different body types. Check out our FAQs section to learn more about what a “standard drink” means.

Surround yourself with non-drinkers.

  • Being around others who drink more than 3-4 drinks, and do so on a regular basis, puts you at a much higher risk of developing an alcohol use disorder. It may surprise you, but there are many people who either don’t drink or drink at low-risk levels! NIAAA found that 35% of adults do not drink at all, and 37% always drink at low-risk levels.
  • If you’re in a friend group that always gets together with alcohol, plan a regular get together that is sober or for the sober-curious! Have a contest for the best-tasting mocktail, or challenge others to join you in taking a break from drinking.

Tell someone if you have concerns.

If you have any concerns about your alcohol use, tell someone. This helps you be more accountable and also have support for making and maintaining changes in your relationship with alcohol.

Talk to a professional.

It never hurts to touch base with a professional who can provide feedback, assess for concerns, and provide follow up support and referrals. Alcohol misuse does not exist in a vacuum. If you are having fears due to family members’ usage or are starting to worry about your own behavior, there might be other related things going on, such as stress, anxiety, life changes, etc. Getting support early on with these normal struggles can be a major prevention tactic for preventing higher risk usage, as well as the harms that come with that.
You might have also come to this page wondering if there are options to recover from alcohol misuse outside of abstinence. When people say “recovery,” many times they think “sobriety.” However, recovery means something different for each person, and you have options, including taking a harms-reduction approach.

What does “Harms Reduction” mean?

The National Harm Reduction Coalition defines harm reduction as a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with substance use. Harm reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs. While the initial harm reduction movement has been centered around people who use drugs, there are many principles of harm reduction that also apply to people who use alcohol. To learn more about the National Harm Reduction Coalition and the principles of harm reduction, visit

At Recover Alaska, we know that not all people currently using alcohol in a harmful way can or want to quit using altogether. The one-pager below highlights some strategies for reducing the harms from binge and heavy drinking.