Preventing Excessive Alcohol Use with Proven Strategies

Key points

  • Proven policies and strategies can reduce alcohol-related harms, including death.
  • Everyone can help protect their families and loved ones from these harms by supporting proven strategies in communities and states.
Community group is strategizing in a library.


The proven strategies on this page are recommended to reduce excessive alcohol use and alcohol-related harms.

Individuals, organizations, communities, and states can all support these strategies to effectively help people limit their drinking, protect health, and improve lives.

Proven ways to prevent excessive alcohol use


Learn how these effective alcohol policies work to protect us from alcohol-related harms.

The Community Preventive Services Task Force recommends these proven strategies for reducing excessive alcohol use and related harms.1

  • Regulate alcohol outlet density.
    • Alcohol outlet density refers to the places that can legally sell alcoholA within a certain area or based on a certain population size.
  • Increase alcohol taxes.
    • Alcohol taxes—like excise, ad valorem (based on value), or sales taxes—all affect the price of alcohol.
    • Taxes on alcohol can be at federal, state, or local levels.
  • Have dram shop liability laws.
    • Dram shop liabilityB means that places selling alcoholA are responsible for the injuries or harms caused by illegally serving certain customers.
    • This includes people who are under 21 and people who are intoxicated.
    • For example, a place could be liable for a death caused by an alcohol-related motor vehicle crash, after selling alcohol to a person who was already intoxicated.
  • Maintain limits on days or hours of alcohol sales.
    • Limiting when people can buy alcohol can lower alcohol-related harms.
    • States or communities may limit the days or hours that alcohol retailers can legally sell or serve alcohol.
  • Use electronic screening and brief intervention (e-SBI).
    • e-SBI means using electronic devices, such as computers or mobile devices, to identify if someone drinks excessively.
    • It also includes a brief intervention to help those who drink too much to learn ways to cut back.
    • e-SBI can be done in many settings, including workplaces, universities, or health care settings.
  • Increase enforcement of laws that prohibit sales to minors.
    • An enhanced enforcement program encourages compliance checks at places like bars, restaurants, and liquor stores to lower underage drinking.
    • A compliance check is when local law enforcement or alcohol control agencies make sure that places are not selling alcohol to people under 21.
    • Places that are found to sell alcohol to underage people can face penalties.
  • Avoid further privatizing retail alcohol sales.
    • Privatizing retail alcohol sales means removing (state, county, or city) government control over alcohol sales in retail stores.
    • This isn't recommended because it can increase the amount of alcohol people drink.

Recommendations for health care settings

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends that primary care providers and health systems use alcohol screening and brief intervention (SBI). Clinicians can use SBI to identify adults who drink excessively and offer behavioral counseling to those who need it.


  1. Examples of places that can sell alcohol include, but are not limited to, bars, restaurants, clubs, breweries, and liquor stores. This includes places that sell alcohol to drink there or places that sell alcohol to drink somewhere else.
  2. This is also known as commercial host liability.
  1. Community Preventive Services Task Force. Excessive alcohol consumption. The Community Guide. Updated July 28, 2023. Accessed March 12, 2024.