How to Control Alcohol Intake Rather Than Quit Cold Turkey

Young couple grilling and drinking beer at outdoor festival

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When many people are asked about their drinking habits, they dismiss concerns as irrational. You might say that you drink just as much as everyone else does, that you can stop drinking whenever you want, and that your drinking is not excessive.

But over time you may start to doubt yourself and question if your drinking has gotten out of control. If it has hit you that you are drinking too much and that cutting down or quitting is not as easy as you thought it would be, you may be wondering whether you can get your alcohol consumption under control. Many people, including some medical professionals, believe that abstinence is the only way. But medical research has shown that the cold-turkey approach may not be the best way for everyone.

How to Control Alcohol Consumption

The different approaches work for different people and various addiction types. Some people may be able to quit and never have a drop of alcohol for the rest of their lives. They may be the type where even a glass of wine every now and again could trigger them to return to drinking heavily. If you recognize yourself as that kind of drinker, it's important to know yourself and your weaknesses.

But for others, drinking in moderation can be effective at curbing addictive behaviors to alcohol.

Research tells us that controlled drinking is not only possible, but it is quite common among people who used to drink heavily.

Many people cut down on their alcohol intake without medical or therapeutic help, although it is advisable to discuss your alcohol intake with your family doctor before trying to change it. It can be dangerous to quit without adequate medical support, due to any withdrawal or mental health symptoms that may occur as you transition into recovery.

If you feel that avoiding alcohol completely is not for you, you do have other options. Some people can get control over their drinking and drink safer levels of alcohol without having to quit entirely.

What to Do If You Wish to Cut Back on Excessive Drinking

If you plan to attempt to control your drinking, there are several steps you should take to assist you in this process.

  • Talk to your family doctor about whether a moderation or abstinence-based approach is right for you.
  • Keep track of how much you are drinking with a journal.
  • Figure out your daily blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
  • Set your daily and weekly alcohol limits and keep yourself accountable.
  • Change the way you drink; have one or two drinks socially, not several rounds.
  • Develop alternatives to drinking that work for you, such as effective self-care with exercise and hobbies.
  • Develop more effective coping and stress management skills, like meditation or therapy.

There is a lot on this list, and you might benefit from the help of a counselor in working through it. Some treatment programs will accept clients with goals of moderation, while others will only provide treatment to people who intend to become abstinent.

If you believe moderation is the right goal for you, you owe it to yourself to find a program that will support you in your new lifestyle. Talk to your doctor to get a referral to a treatment plan that will work for you.

If you or a loved one are struggling with substance use or addiction, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database

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Article Sources
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