Taming the Spirits
If you drink A LOT and want to quit drinking, you might want to try to taper off first, instead of stopping suddenly, to try to reduce the severity of possible alcohol withdrawal symptoms. For some drinkers who relapsed after facing severe withdrawals, the answer was to taper off first, rather than suddenly quitting cold turkey.
Unfortunately, there is little if any research that shows that tapering off actually reduces the effects of alcohol withdrawal. That could be because withdrawal symptoms vary widely from one person to the next and there is no way to compare results.
Tapering Does Not Work for Everyone
Those who find that they cannot taper off the number of drinks for any significant length of time probably have developed a severe alcohol use disorder or have become what is commonly known as an alcoholic. For these drinkers, cutting down on the amount of alcohol they drink simply does not work. They may cut back the number of drinks they have for a short time, but they soon find themselves back to drinking at their usual level.
If you are a daily drinker, a long-time heavy drinker, or a frequent binge drinker, if you suddenly stop drinking altogether, chances are you are going to experience some form of alcohol withdrawal symptoms and if you try to quit “on your own” without any kind of medical assistance, those symptoms could become very severe.
Getting Help for Withdrawals
If you find that you are one of those drinkers who cannot taper their alcohol consumption consistently or if you find that you begin to experience withdrawal symptoms by merely cutting back, don’t give up.
You don’t have to let the fear of alcohol withdrawal stop you from cutting back or quitting. You may decide to seek medical treatment for withdrawal symptoms or you may decide to enter a professional detox or rehab center.
B vitamins (B-Replete): Research suggests that alcoholic cravings are due to a deficiency in B vitamins and that supplements may lessen the desire to drink. And because alcohol abuse does deplete B vitamins in general and thiamin in particular, consider taking a B-complex vitamin supplement.
L-glutamine (L-Glutamine powder): Research in both animals and humans suggests that this amino acid can reduce both cravings and the anxiety that accompanies alcohol withdrawal.
Milk thistle (Liver Defend): Extract of the seeds of this flowering plant in the daisy family have been shown in European research to stimulate regeneration of liver cells and protect them from toxic injury.
Set a Realistic Goal
Write down how many drinks you want to drink per day and how many days a week you want to drink. Writing down your goals can help remind you that you want to limit your drinking. People who drink within the recommended guidelines have much lower risk of developing problems.
Count Your Drinks
Making the effort to record how many drinks you have may also help you reduce or slow down your drinking. You can use a handwritten note that you keep in your wallet or record your drinks on your smartphone or PDA, whatever is more convenient for you.
Measure Your Drinks
If you are going to count how many drinks you have, make sure you are accurate. Learn what counts as a standard drink so that you can accurately measure how many you have had. Stick to your goal even when you are away from home, dining out or in a bar.
Some drinkers trying to cut down have been successful by pacing their drinking – sipping their drinks slowly or making sure they have only one drink per hour. People who consume drinks quickly, particularly the first few drinks, are at greater risk of developing alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.
Space Your Drinks
Another trick for cutting down alcohol consumption is to use drink spacers – nonalcoholic beverages between drinks containing alcohol. Some drinkers will alternate a drink of water, diluted juice or soda water between their alcoholic beverages to slow down their consumption. No matter how much you drink, it’s always a good idea to drink plenty of water along with your alcoholic beverages.
Don’t Forget to Eat
For some drinkers, eating food will reduce their craving for alcohol. This is not true for all drinkers, but if eating something reduces your craving for a drink, making sure you eat a meal at times when you usually drink might help you reduce the amount you drink. Of course, it is not wise for anyone to drink on an empty stomach.
Avoid Your Triggers
Whether you are trying to cut down or quit drinking altogether, it is a good idea to avoid situations in which you are used to drinking. People, places, things and certain activities can be triggers that cause you to have an urge to drink. Avoiding those triggers can prevent you from drinking when you otherwise might not do so. Remember, your health is at stake.
Do Something Else
If drinking has become a big part of your life, try substituting other activities during those times when you might usually drink. Take up a hobby, begin an exercise program, make new friends, or spend more time with your family. Find something that you enjoy that will occupy the time during which you would usually be drinking.
Learn How to Say ‘No’
Chances are you are going to be in situations in which someone is going to offer you a drink or expect you to drink with them as you have done in the past. Learn how to politely say “no thank you,” and really mean it. Say it quickly and firmly so that you don’t give yourself time to change your mind. You may want to practice what you will say the next time your friends ask you to have a drink.
Here are some success stories from visitors to this site who were able to quit successfully:
This time, I tapered, having two to four beers for about four or five days and I have been absolutely withdrawal symptom-free.
Tapering Was Not Easy
It was a minute by minute, hour by hour thing at first. It took me three weeks to do it. It was not easy, but I knew it was the only way for me. I had to be determined and strong to fight it.
Better Than Cold Turkey
This time, I tapered off I was drinking 2 or 3 bottles of wine (sometimes a fifth of tequila or bourbon) per day. I tapered with 2 to 4 beers a day. It wasn’t all that easy, but far easier than cold turkey.
Step Toward Getting Better
I could not take time off from work or family and tapered off in five days by stretching out time intervals between drinks. It was a long week, but it eventually ended. Each hour you go without a drink is a step toward getting better.
Cutting Down to Zero
I weaned off a bottle of brandy or vodka onto two or three bottles of wine a night down to zero. I have had zero symptoms after drinking all day every day for the past six years.
If You Can’t Cut Down
If you find that you cannot cut down, you may have already developed an alcohol use disorder. You may need to try to quit drinking altogether or seek help to quit.
If you find that you cannot cut back on your drinking, here are some resources that you may find helpful:
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and Your Health.”