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Get help to cut down safely

If you’ve become dependent on alcohol, making the decision to cut down can be a really big step, but stopping suddenly can be dangerous, and even fatal in rare cases, so it’s important to be safe in the way you cut down. This page is to help you reduce your alcohol intake safely, but it is always best to get advice from your GP or local drug and alcohol service.

If you are alcohol dependent it is likely that you experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms if you don’t drink every day, or within a few hours of waking up in the morning. Withdrawal symptoms might include:

  • Tremors or shaking
  • Feeling sweaty
  • Feeling sick, or like you might vomit
  • Feeling anxious or irritable
  • Heart palpitations
  • Disturbed sleep
  • Hallucinations (hearing or seeing things that aren’t there)
  • Fits or seizures

If you experience any of these symptoms it is extremely important that you do not stop drinking suddenly. It is much safer to cut down a little bit at a time.

Following these steps can help you to plan for your reduction, but it is important to get medical advice from your GP or local drug and alcohol service.

1.     Work out how much you’re drinking now

It’s important to be honest and get a realistic picture of how much you’re drinking at the moment.

An easy way to do this is to keep a Drinking Diary. This will help you to keep track of how much you drink, how often, where and why. You can also try the downloading the Drinkaware app to keep track on your phone if you find it easier

Keeping track for 1-4 weeks will help you to spot patterns in your drinking, and understand your triggers better. It might also help you to recognise some situations you might want to avoid whilst cutting down.

2.     Set your goals and make a plan

Making this sort of change can be difficult, so the more your prepare the better your chance of success. It helps to think about and write down:

  • What you’re trying to achieve (if you’re dependent, your best chance for success is to aim to stop drinking altogether)
  • The things that will motivate you to achieve your goal
  • How you’re going to deal with tough days
  • Who and what can support you along the way

Our Change Planner is a good place to start, but remember to review it regularly and adapt it if you need to.

If you are unsure if you’re ready to cut down yet, try our Pros and Cons of Cutting Down worksheet. This can help you work out what changes you’re ready to make.

If you’re ready to go, choose a date to start, and ask people you trust to support you, then…

3.     Put your plan into action

Talk to your  GP or local treatment service about how much it is safe for you to cut down.

You might find you can do it little by little at home. If you decide to give this a try, cut down by no more than 10% each day (Work out how many units you have been drinking on an average day, and divide by 10. This is the safe amount you can reduce by each day). Make sure you also drink lots of water.

Sometimes people who are dependent on alcohol need a medically assisted detox. This means being prescribed some medication to help you through the withdrawals, and can usually be done at home.  Your GP or local treatment service can help with this.

In some circumstances, if there are other health risks involved, you might be referred to a residential or inpatient service so you can be medically monitored. This means staying somewhere where there are medical staff available to support you whilst you take medication to detox from alcohol.

This sort of change can be a bit scary, but remember, you don’t have to do it alone. If you’d like some help, get in touch here.