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 a 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 also some plans to maintain the improvement after that.
The GP may suggest different types of assessment and support options available to you, such as from local community alcohol services.
You can also ask about any free local support groups and other alcohol counselling that may suit you.
If you have become physically dependent and need to stop drinking completely, stopping overnight could be harmful.
You should get advice about this and about any medications you may need to do this safely.
The sorts of withdrawal symptoms that suggest you may need medicine:
- Anxiety after waking
- Sweating and tremors
- Nausea or retching in the morning
- 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. Only relying on family, friends or carers for this often is not enough.
Ask a 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.
Fourteen units are equivalent to 6 pints of average-strength beer or 10 small glasses of low-strength wine.
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
If you let your friends and family know you’re cutting down and it’s important to you, you could get support from them.
Take it a day at a time
Cut back a little each day. That way, every day you do is a success.
Make it a smaller one
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.
Have a lower-strength drink
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.
Have a glass of water before you have alcohol and alternate alcoholic drinks with water or other non-alcoholic drinks.
Take a break
Have several drink-free days each week.
Benefits of cutting down on alcohol:
Immediate effects 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:
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.
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 up.
Drinking can affect your judgement and behaviour. You may behave irrationally or aggressively when you’re drunk. Memory loss can be a problem during drinking and in the long term for regular heavy drinkers.
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.
Regular drinking can affect your body’s ability to fight infections. Heavy drinkers tend to catch more infectious diseases.