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Page medically reviewed by Claire Rimmer (BA (Hons), Dip.Psychology, FDAD (NCAC)), Lead Addiction Therapist at Priory Hospital Altrincham, in August 2022.

There are lots of legitimate reasons for wanting to cut down on the amount you drink. You might be fed up with that feeling of grogginess the morning after and/or always waking up with a hangover. It might be affecting your concentration and motivation at work. It could just be that you want to make some financial savings. Whatever it might be, there are a number of ways to cut back that we can all try.

Drawing on advice from our expert therapists and psychiatrists, we’ve compiled a series of tips that can help you to reduce your alcohol consumption.

Do I Need To Stop Drinking So Much?

Government advice suggests that men and women should not drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week, and that this should be spread over three or more days. That’s equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of lower-strength wine. If you’re regularly exceeding this amount, you could use this as one indicator that you might be drinking too much.

Another way is to use an alcohol screening test. Screening tests usually include a number of questions and they can help to establish your relationship with alcohol. One example is the Alcohol use disorders identification test (AUDIT). Developed by the World Health Organisation (WHO), it’s used in some health and social settings to see how at risk someone is of having an alcohol dependency.

Questions include:

  • How much do you drink and how often you drink?
  • How often have you felt guilty about your drinking?
  • How often have you not been able to do what is normally expected of you after drinking?
  • Have you, or someone you know, been injured as a result of you drinking?

How To Cut Back on Alcohol

tips for cutting down on alcohol

  • Set goals and stick to them: Set a realistic target for how much you want to cut down and make sure you congratulate yourself when you achieve it. Get competitive and you might be surprised how motivated you become.
  • Cut down on alcohol days: Rather than counting up units and measurements of alcohol, a good way to instantly reduce your consumption is to focus on days. Increase your alcohol-free days, and see how much better you feel.
  • Track your drinking: Write down when you drink, what you drank, and why you drank. You will start to recognise patterns in your behaviour and reasons that cause you to drink. Then you can think of ways to replace alcohol with something else that does the same job.
  • Try alcohol-free socialising: Socialising with friends presents many people with their biggest challenge. Instead of always heading to the pub, think of ways you can see your friends without reaching for a pint or a glass of wine.

Consultant Psychiatrist Niall Campbell, on the importance of allies when cutting down:

“Talk to a friend and, if possible, get them to give up alcohol at the same time as you - then support each other. You might take up a sport at the same time, go running together, or swap your lagers for lattes. Discuss times when you might be tempted to go the pub and opt for the cinema or coffee bar, or binge watch Netflix.”

  • Have a get-out plan: If you do find yourself at a party or other social event involving alcohol, have a get-out plan. Pre-book a taxi home, take exactly the amount of alcohol you’re comfortable drinking with you, and don’t bow to peer pressure.
  • Experiment with relaxation techniques: People often drink to self-medicate when they feel stressed or anxious. Things like meditating, breathing exercises and calming music are quick and easy ways to keep calm and keep your cravings at bay.
  • Keep yourself busy: Keeping yourself busy can help to remove temptations to drink. What activity have you always wanted to try? Now is the perfect time to give it a go.
  • Swap your alcohol: When you order a drink, go for a small wine instead of a large one, a single measure of spirits instead of a double or a bottle of beer instead of a pint. Also, try swapping your usual drink for something with a lower strength.
  • Keep an alcohol-free house: Keeping a ‘dry’ house can remove temptation. Let your friends and family know that you are cutting down or stopping drinking, so that they don’t bring alcohol around or put any undue pressure on you.
  • Consider a digital detox: Social media and mental health are not a perfect mix. Scroll through Instagram and you’ll quickly feel like you’re missing out on all the fun your friends are having drinking. Match up your reduction in drinking with a reduction in how much you use social media.
  • Enjoy the small wins: If someone else notices how well you’ve been doing, don’t feel bad if you take that compliment and use it as motivation. You should feel good about the hard work you’re putting into cutting down.

Consultant Psychiatrist Paul McLaren, on the benefits of cutting down:

“Confidence comes from ‘doing’, and free of the shackles of regular drinking you may be open to a host of things from new opportunities at work to potentially new and different social horizons.” After a couple of months, you’ll find yourself with “more energy and enthusiasm”, which will help your relationships and your career.”

  • Dealing with cravings: Cravings are inevitable, but giving into them is not. Deal with alcohol cravings by distracting yourself with a book, a walk, or a call with a friend or family member.
  • Count the cash: Amongst many other things, cutting down on alcohol will save you a bit of money. Work out how much you’ve saved and treat yourself – you deserve it!

What Happens When You Cut Back on Alcohol?

Within just a few days, you’ll start to see the benefits of cutting back on alcohol – especially to your health. Reducing your alcohol consumption can help improve your sleep, remove any feelings of fatigue or grogginess, and give you more energy.

Cut down on alcohol for a month, and the benefits keep on coming. Your blood pressure will be reduced, reducing the risk of heart problems and strokes. You’ll also have cut down on your calorie intake, helping you to lose weight.  

The benefits aren’t just related to health either. Depending on how much you drink, you can start saving money too. Just think what you could do with that little bit extra in your pocket.

Can I Cut Down My Drinking on My Own?

Many people find they are able to cut down how much they drink on their own. However, you should never be ashamed to ask for help and support. If you’re worried about reducing alcohol intake alone, speak to a trusted friend or family member. They’ll be able to offer support, be it by cutting down with you or just by being there to listen.

For those who are struggling to get their drinking under control, it might be that you’re showing signs of an alcohol problem. At this point, it might be worth looking for professional help and support. Today, effective treatments like detoxing and therapy can help people to recover from alcohol dependency and regain control of their lives.

Alcohol Addiction Treatment at Priory

Using our network of hospital sites and wellbeing centres, Priory offers effective, evidence-based treatment for addiction that can put you on the road to recovery. Our world class team of consultant psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists and other medical professionals deliver the very best treatment to those struggling with addiction every day.

Treatment programmes at Priory can be on a residential, inpatient basis at one of our leading hospital sites across the UK, allowing you to receive round-the-clock expert treatment. Alternatively, we can treat you on an outpatient or day care basis – allowing you to recover from addiction around your other responsibilities.

We also offer a free addiction assessment, which can help us understand the difficulties you’ve been experiencing and talk through the best course of treatment for your recovery. Use the information below to book your free assessment and start your journey to recovery today.

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World-class treatment for addictions makes recovery possible with Priory. Book a FREE ADDICTION ASSESSMENT or call us on 0800 840 3219 to speak to one of our compassionate team today.

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