Addiction Alcohol Use Withdrawal and Relapse Pros and Cons of Tapering Off Alcohol Intake Work with your healthcare provider to find the best way for you By Buddy T Buddy T Facebook Twitter Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. Learn about our editorial process Updated on October 30, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE Medically reviewed by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Verywell / JR Bee Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Tapering vs. Cold Turkey Strategies Challenges 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. Whether you're a daily imbiber, heavy drinker, or frequent binge drinker, you're likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you quit. Unfortunately, there's little to no evidence that tapering off reduces the effects of alcohol withdrawal, some of which can be severe or even life-threatening. Quitting with proper medical supervision may be more important than whether you stop gradually or all at once. Tapering Off Alcohol vs. Going Cold Turkey Tapering off is a standard medical practice for many other drugs. For example, healthcare providers usually don't take patients off antidepressants suddenly; rather, they gradually reduce the dosages. Obviously quitting cold turkey from a 12-beer-a-day habit is going to be more stressful than tapering off slowly. But that does not mean home detox is effective, appropriate, or safe. Generally speaking, alcohol home detox is neither the most effective nor the safest method of quitting alcohol. However, it is inexpensive and may be suitable for someone whose job, relationships, and well-being are not in jeopardy. Strategies for Tapering Off Alcohol Try these tips for tapering off: Gradually reduce the number of drinks you usually drink. For example, if you typically drink five glasses of wine every day, try cutting back to four glasses for several days. Then, try to reduce it to three. Space out your drinks. Limit yourself to one drink per hour, for example, or substitute a glass of water, juice, or Gatorade between each alcoholic drink. Dilute your drinks. Mix progressively weaker drinks with less alcohol. Change to an alcoholic beverage you don't like. For example, switch from wine (which you like) to beer (which you don't). The rationale is simply that you're less likely to drink much of a beverage you don't like. If you plan to taper your drinking in order to stop, make sure that you limit your intake consistently, avoid fluctuations, and adhere to a weekly reduction schedule with a set date to stop. Tapering is not an open-ended process. Challenges of Tapering Off Alcohol For some drinkers, cutting down on the amount of alcohol they drink simply does not work. They may cut back for a short period of time, but they soon find themselves back to drinking at their usual level. This is especially true of heavy drinkers who are surrounded by the triggers that encourage drinking and lack the support needed to encourage change. Those who find that they cannot taper off the number of drinks for any significant length of time probably have developed a severe alcohol use disorder or have become what is commonly known as an alcoholic. For others, simply cutting back the number of drinks can bring on alcohol withdrawal symptoms. Moreover, substituting one kind of beverage for another does not help you taper off alcohol if you consume the same number of standard drinks as you usually have. For example, one 12-ounce can of beer contains the same amount of alcohol as a 5-ounce glass of wine or a mixed drink containing 1.5 ounces of alcohol. With these things in mind, you need to weigh the pros and cons of tapering your alcohol use—ideally with someone you trust—to make a fully informed decision. A Word From Verywell If you find that you are one of those drinkers who cannot taper their alcohol consumption consistently or if you find that you begin to experience withdrawal symptoms by merely cutting back, don't give up. You don't have to let the fear of alcohol withdrawal stop you from cutting back or quitting. You may decide to seek medical treatment for your withdrawal symptoms or decide to enter a professional detox or rehab center. Whatever you do, it is better to act than not act. Even if you fail, there are still plenty of treatment options you can turn to. Don't give up. 2 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Wilson E, Lader M. A review of the management of antidepressant discontinuation symptoms. Ther Adv Psychopharmacol. 2015;5(6):357-68. doi:10.1177/2045125315612334 Ferner RE, Chambers J. Alcohol intake: measure for measure. BMJ. 2001;323(7327):1439-40. doi:10.1136/bmj.323.7327.1439 Additional Reading National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. (2010) Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and Your Health. Bethesda, Maryland: National Institutes of Health. NIH Publication No. 15-3770. By Buddy T Buddy T is an anonymous writer and founding member of the Online Al-Anon Outreach Committee with decades of experience writing about alcoholism. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? Other Helpful Report an Error Submit Get Treatment for Addiction Advertiser Disclosure × The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Verywell Mind receives compensation.