Alcohol Support and Reduction

Realising you have a problem with alcohol is the first big step to getting help.

You may need alcohol support and reduction tips if:

  • You often feel the need to have a drink
  • You get into trouble because of your drinking
  • Other people warn you about how much you’re drinking
  • You think your drinking is causing you problems

A good place to start is with your GP. Try to be accurate and honest about how much you drink and any problems it may be causing you.

If you have become dependent on alcohol, you will have found it difficult to fully control your drinking in some way, so you’ll probably need some help either to cut down and control your drinking or stop completely and a plan to help you going forward.

Your GP will discuss the different options available to you, including signposting you to local community alcohol services. You can also ask about any free local support groups and alcohol counselling should you need it.

If you have become physically dependent and need to stop drinking completely, stopping overnight could be harmful. You should get advice and ask about any medications you may need to do this safely.

Withdrawal symptoms that suggest you may need medicine to help you stop drinking include:

  • Anxiety after waking
  • Sweating and tremors
  • Nausea or retching in the morning
  • Vomiting
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures or fits

Staying healthy and in control

Cutting down or stopping drinking is usually just the beginning, and most people will need some degree of help or a long-term plan to stay in control or completely alcohol-free.

Getting the right support can be crucial to maintaining control in the future. Simply relying on family, friends or carers for this often is not enough, so ask your GP or alcohol service about what longer-term support is available in your area.

Self-help or mutual aid groups (groups such as AA or SMART Recovery groups) are accessible in most areas.

Useful contacts for alcohol problems

  • Drinkline is the national alcohol helpline. If you’re worried about your own or someone else’s drinking, you can call this free helpline in complete confidence. Call 0300 123 1110 (Weekdays 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Weekends 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.).
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is a free self-help group. Its 12-step programme involves getting sober with the help of regular support groups.
  • Al-Anon Family Groups offers support and understanding to the families and friends of problem drinkers, whether they’re still drinking or not. Alateen is part of Al-Anon and can be attended by 12- to 17-year-olds who are affected by another person’s drinking, usually a parent.
  • We Are With You is a UK-wide treatment agency that helps individuals, families, and communities manage the effects of drug and alcohol misuse.
  • Adfam is a national charity working with families affected by drugs and alcohol. Adfam operates an online message board and a database of local support groups.
  • The National Association for Children of Alcoholics (Nacoa) provides a free, confidential telephone and email helpline for children of alcohol-dependent parents and others concerned about their welfare. Call 0800 358 3456 for the Nacoa helpline.
  • SMART Recovery groups help people decide whether they have a problem, build up their motivation to change, and offer a set of proven tools and techniques to support recovery.

Tips for cutting down on alcohol:

If you regularly drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week, try these simple tips to help you cut down:

  • Make a plan
  • Before you start drinking, set a limit on how much you’re going to drink
  • Set a budget
  • Only take a fixed amount of money to spend on alcohol
  • Let them know
  • Get support from family and friends and let them know you’re trying to cut down your alcohol intake
  • Take it a day at a time
  • Cut back a little each day. That way, every day you do is a success
  • You can still enjoy a drink but go for smaller sizes. Try bottled beer instead of pints, or a small glass of wine instead of a large one
  • Cut down the alcohol by swapping strong beers or wines for ones with a lower strength (ABV in %). You’ll find this information on the bottle
  • Stay hydrated. Have a glass of water before you have alcohol and alternate alcoholic drinks with water or other non-alcoholic drinks
  • Have several drink-free days each week.

Benefits of cutting down on alcohol:

  • Feeling better in the mornings
  • Being less tired during the day
  • Better-looking skin
  • Feeling more energetic
  • Better weight management

Long-term benefits of cutting down on alcohol:

Mood

There’s a strong link between heavy drinking and depression, and hangovers often make you feel anxious and low. If you already feel anxious or sad, drinking can make this worse, so cutting down may put you in a better mood generally.

Sleep

Drinking can affect your sleep. Although it can help some people fall asleep quickly, it can disrupt your sleep patterns and stop you from sleeping deeply. So cutting down on alcohol should help you feel more rested when you wake.

Behaviour

Drinking can affect your judgement and behaviour. You may behave irrationally or aggressively when you are drunk. Memory loss can be a problem during drinking and in the long term for regular heavy drinkers.

Heart

Long-term heavy drinking can lead to your heart becoming enlarged. This is a serious condition that can’t be completely reversed but stopping drinking can stop it from getting worse.

Immune system

Regular drinking can affect your body’s ability to fight infections. Heavy drinkers tend to catch more infectious diseases.