Tips on Reducing or Quitting Alcohol Consumption

Tips on Reducing or Quitting Alcohol Consumption

If you are, or have been, alcohol dependent, or if you have a condition due to alcohol such as liver damage, then stopping alcohol completely is usually best. Otherwise, reducing to a safe level of drinking is an option. Otherwise, reducing to safe level of drinking is an option.

If you are trying to cut down, some tips which may help include:

·         Consider drinking low alcohol beers, or at least do not drink ‘strong’ beers or lagers.

·         Try pacing the rate of drinking. Perhaps alternate soft drinks with alcoholic drinks.

·         If you eat when you drink, you may drink less.

·         It may be worth reviewing your entire social routine. For example, consider:

Ø  Cutting back on types of social activity which involve drinking.

Ø  Trying different social activities where drinking is not a part.

Ø  Reduce the number of days in the week where you go out to drink.

Ø  Going out to the pub or club later in the evening.

·         Try to resist pressure from people who encourage you to drink more than you want to.

People sometimes ask a frequent question “What can help me to reduce or stop drinking alcohol?”

Answer is “No-one can make you stop or cut down drinking. You have to be committed and determined to do this yourself. However, it can be difficult, and one or more of the following may help.

Accepting the problem

Some people deny to themselves that they have a problem. The sort of thoughts that people deceive themselves which includes: “I can cope”, “I am only drinking what all my mates drink”, “I can stop anytime”. Accepting that you may have a problem, and seeking help where necessary, are often the biggest steps to cutting back on alcohol, or cutting it out completely.

Self help

Some people are helped by books, websites, leaflets and their own determination. It is thought that about 1 in 3 people who have a problem with alcohol return to sensible drinking, or stop drinking, without any professional help.

Taking treatments

Some people are helped by counselling and advice from a practice nurse or doctor. Sometimes a referral to a specially trained counsellor may be advised. They can help you to talk through the issues in more detail and help you to plan how to manage your drinking. In some cases, more intensive talking treatments such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) may be appropriate.CBT helps you to change certain ways that you think, feel and behave, and may help some people with alcohol related issues.

Treating other illnesses

Alcohol May seem to be “quick” answer to relief of stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health problems. However, the effect is short-lived and drinking a lot of alcohol often makes these conditions worse. If you feel that these conditions are the underlying problem then see your doctor. Medication and talking treatments such as CBT often work well for these conditions, and are a much better long-term option than heavy drinking.

Detoxification (Detox)

This is the option if you are alcohol dependent. Detoxification or detox involves taking a short course of a medicine, which helps to prevent withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking alcohol. Benzodiazepine medicines such as Chlordiazepoxide and Diazepam are used for detox.

Many GPs are happy to prescribe for detox from alcohol. A common plan is to prescribe a high dose of medication for the first day that you stop drinking alcohol. You then gradually reduce the dose over the next 5-7 days. This usually prevents, or greatly reduces, the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. You must agree not to drink any alcohol when you are taking the detox medication. Your GP or practice nurse will usually see you quiet often during the time of detox. Also during this time, support from family or friends can be of great help.

Some people are referred to a specialist drug and alcohol unit for detox. This is usually better for those with little home or social support, those with history of severe withdrawal symptoms, those with physical illness caused by alcohol and those where previous attempts to stop alcohol have failed. The medicines used to detox in specialist units are much the same as GPs prescribe. However, these units have more staff and expertise for giving support and counselling. Some people with serious alcohol related problems are admitted to hospital to detox.

The medication does not make you stop drinking. You need determination to stop. The medication simply helps you to feel better whilst your body readjusts to not having alcohol. Even after the period of detox you may still have some craving for alcohol. So you will still need willpower and coping strategies for when you feel tempted to drink.

Other medication sometimes used for alcohol problems

·         VITAMINS, particularly vitamin B1 (THIAMINE), are often prescribed if you are alcohol dependent. Especially during detox. This is because many people who are dependent on alcohol do not eat properly and can lack certain vitamins. A lack of vitamin B1 is the most common. A lack of this vitamin can cause serious brain conditions called Wernicke’s encephalopathy and Korsakoff’s psychosis.

·         ACAMPROSATE is a medicine which can help to ease alcohol craving. This may be prescribed to some people after successful detox to help them stay off alcohol.

·         DISULFIRAM is another medicine which is sometimes used following a successful detox. When you take Disulfiram you get very unpleasant symptoms if you drink any alcohol (such as flushing, vomiting, palpitations and headache). So, in effect, the medicine acts as a deterrent for when you are tempted to drink. It can help some people to stay off alcohol.

After detoxification and staying off alcohol

Many people who successfully detox go back to drinking heavily again at some point. There are various reasons why this may occur. It is thought that you are less likely to go back to drinking heavily if you have counselling, or other support to help you stay off alcohol. Your doctor, Practice nurse, or local drug and alcohol unit may provide ongoing support when you are trying to stay off alcohol. Self-help groups also give good results to people want to quit and stay off alcohol.

If you do go back to heavy drinking, you can always try again to stop or cut down. Some people take several attempts before they stop drinking, or keep within the safe limits, for good.