Managing Safe Alcohol Use
It’s important to remember our connection to culture that we have a purpose in life. It’s important to remember that our body is a vessel for our spirit that needs to be protected from toxins, such as alcohol. Alcohol and other drugs can impair the work of our spirit. Persons who experience wellness have hope, know where they belong in this world, and understand that their life has meaning and that they have a unique and specific purpose in life.(FNMWC, 2015)
Those who find that they choose to use alcohol may benefit from the following tips:
- Know how much you drink regularly.
- Spread drinks out to reduce binging and withdrawal.
- Slowly reduce the amount of drinks each day, by no more than one or two drinks a day.
- Choose beverages with less alcohol content, ie. beer vs. wine or wine vs. spirits.
- Take a break from drinking after slowly reducing your intake.
- If you drink heavily, reducing too quickly or quitting can be dangerous.
- Consider a prescription to relieve withdrawal.
- Have someone you trust control your alcohol supply.
- If you want to reduce alcohol use, make a goal by thinking about how much you drink now and where you want to be.
- Pace your drinks.
- Set aside how much is needed to be comfortable for the day.
- Keep a schedule; keep track of each drink.
- Slow down if getting drunk quickly or drinking more than usual.
- Dilute the drinks with water or juice or alternate drinks with water or juice.
- Do not share drinks or glasses to avoid spreading COVID-19.
- Include First Nation models of handling substance use issues and healing.
- Respect inter-generational trauma.
- Avoid prohibition of alcohol, as it can lead to the use of other, potentially more harmful substances.
- Accept that people will continue to use alcohol and other drugs.
- Understand that violence can occur with or without alcohol.
Abstinence and Change
Alcohol may be used alone or in combination with other substances. The long history of alcohol use in First Nations communities has shown that addiction can lead to poor health outcomes, family disconnect, and other issues that pose risks to overall wellness and wellbeing (FNMWC). People who use alcohol may develop addiction and dependency which puts themselves and others at risk.
Treatment for alcohol abuse has shown that for many, abstinence has worked well. Individuals make up their minds to quit and may or may not engage in forms of therapy that help and support their decision to quit drinking.
Tips for brief interventions for alcohol misuse
- Be aware, listen and have empathy.
- Have a general awareness of alcohol use.
- Accept reasons for alcohol use without judgement.
- Know COVID-19 risks.
- Plan to manage alcohol use during COVID-19.
- Avoid requiring a long-term commitment, i.e. reducing alcohol use during COVID-19, or moving toward abstinence.
- Respect the right of individuals to plan their path to recovery
Medications to manage withdrawal may include:
- non-benzodiazepine medications, such as gabapentin, carbamazepine, or clonidine, for managing low risk of severe complications of alcohol withdrawal (at home)
- benzodiazepine treatment regimen under close observation (emergency care if needed) at inpatient facility
- naltrexone or acamprosate to support patient-identified treatment goals in adults (reduction or abstinence).