Top four tips
- Set yourself a drink limit and count your drinks.
- Swap to low or no alcohol alternatives.
- Limit how much alcohol you keep in the house.
- Change your ‘after work routine’.
- Delay that first drink.
- Drink only with dinner.
Is it better to stop drinking or cut down?
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Home Thinking about a change It’s up to you To cut down or to quit, If you’re considering changing your drinking, you’ll need to decide whether to cut down or quit. It’s a good idea to discuss different options with a healthcare professional, a friend, or someone else you trust.
- Please note, when someone who has been drinking heavily for a prolonged period of time suddenly stops drinking, the body can go into a painful or even potentially life-threatening process of withdrawal.
- Symptoms can include nausea, rapid heart rate, seizures, or other problems.
- Seek medical help to plan a safe recovery.
Doctors can prescribe medications to address these symptoms and make the process safer and less distressing. Quitting is strongly advised if you:
Have tried cutting down but cannot stay within the limits you set. Have had alcohol use disorder (AUD) or now have any symptoms, Have a physical or mental health condition that is caused or being worsened by drinking. Are taking a medication that interacts with alcohol. Are or might be pregnant.
If none of the conditions above apply to you, then talk with your doctor to determine whether you should cut down or quit based on factors such as:
A family history of alcohol problems Your age A history of drinking-related injuries Symptoms such as a sleep, pain, or anxiety disorder and sexual dysfunction
If you choose to cut down, see the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and seek advice from a healthcare professional if needed.
What happens when you cut down on alcohol?
There are many benefits to cutting down or cutting out alcohol. Taking a break from alcohol is one of the best things you can do for your health. Whether you’re thinking about drinking less in an average week or feeling like you don’t want to drink alcohol at all anymore, there are so many good reasons that can help to make the choice that is right for you.
- And if you decide not to cut out alcohol entirely right now, it’s best to stick to the low-risk weekly guidelines,
- When you take a break from alcohol, you’ll most likely notice that your mood improves, and you may feel more positive overall.
- Because you’re not experiencing the low mood, anxiety and tiredness associated with the day after drinking, your outlook can shift, and you’ll have more time to spend on doing things that make you happy.
This could be catching up with friends over Sunday brunch, exercise classes or giving your mood a boost with a nice long walk in your local park. In the short-term cutting down on alcohol has all kinds of benefits like lower blood sugar, weight loss and fewer associated negative consequences like a headache or heartburn.
- One study has shown other benefits including lower blood pressure and reduced cholesterol.
- After a few weeks without alcohol you may notice that your day-to-day health has improved.
- This is because alcohol weakens your immune system.
- So if you do catch a cold that’s doing the rounds in the office, you may notice that you’re better able to fight it off and recover more quickly.
Over time, liver function can improve. The liver performs many essential processes in our bodies and reducing how much you drink means the liver can focus on these essential jobs instead of working overtime to process and eliminate alcohol. Changes now can protect our future health.
- Many alcohol-related health risks don’t appear until later in life.
- This means that how much and how often we drink now can have affect our health later in life.
- Making small, positive changes now will help reduce risks for a long list of health harms including cancer, liver and heart disease.
- And so, while you may not be able to see all the effects right away you can rest assured that you’re making a difference to your long-term health.
If you’re trying to maintain a healthy weight or lose a few pounds, cutting back on alcohol can help. Alcohol has almost the same calories per gram as pure fat and depending on the type, the sugar content can be high. For example, one bottle of white wine (750ml, 12.5%) has 30 grams of sugar.
That is the equivalent of 8 teaspoons of sugar! And this doesn’t even take into account any late-night snacking or junk food you might eat the following day. Your skin should appear healthier for a few different reasons. A US study found that alcohol is a trigger for rosacea (facial redness or flushing) and can worsen the condition if you already have it.
Alcohol dehydrates the body and because it is a diuretic that increases your body’s need to urinate more often. This means you’ll lose water and sodium more quickly, which can leave your skin looking dull and dry. One of the first things you’ll notice when you drink less or take a break from alcohol is how much better you’re sleeping.
If you regularly have a drink to help you fall asleep (which actually has the opposite effect), your body might take a few days to adjust into a normal sleep cycle without alcohol. Keep going! Once you develop your new alcohol-free nightly routine, your quality of sleep will improve. Better still, you’ll wake up feeling refreshed and with full of energy to take on the day ahead.
This can help increase your concentration, memory, productivity. More good news is that you’ll be more likely to attend that morning weekend workout session you booked earlier in the week, which is good for your mind and body. So often, people don’t consider how much money they are spending on alcohol.
Is it OK to just stop drinking?
Heavy drinkers who suddenly decrease or stop drinking altogether may experience withdrawal symptoms. They are potentially dangerous and should be treated as a serious warning sign that you are drinking too much. Withdrawal symptoms are part of a condition called ‘alcohol withdrawal syndrome’, which is a reaction caused when someone who has become dependent on alcohol is deprived of it.
How many drinks a night is a heavy drinker?
The Basics: Defining How Much Alcohol is Too Much Step 1 – Read the Article
- Show your patients a standard drink chart when asking about their alcohol consumption to encourage more accurate estimates. Drinks often contain more alcohol than people think, and patients often underestimate their consumption.
- Advise some patients not to drink at all, including those who are managing health conditions that can be worsened by alcohol, are taking medications that could interact with alcohol, are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, or are under age 21.
- Otherwise, advise patients who choose to drink to follow the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, by limiting intake to 1 drink or less for women and 2 drinks or less for men—on any single day, not on average, Drinking at this level may reduce, though not eliminate, risks.
- Don’t advise non-drinking patients to start drinking alcohol for their health. Past research overestimated benefits of moderate drinking, while current research points to added risks, such as for breast cancer, even with low levels of drinking.
How much, how fast, and how often a person drinks alcohol all factor into the risk for alcohol-related problems. How much and how fast a person drinks influences how much alcohol enters the bloodstream, how impaired he or she becomes, and what the related acute risks will be.
Over time, how much and how often a person drinks influences not only acute risks but also chronic health problems, including liver disease and alcohol use disorder (AUD), and social harms such as relationship problems.1 (See Core articles on and,) It can be hard for patients to gauge and accurately report their alcohol intake to clinicians, in part because labels on alcohol containers typically list only the percent of alcohol by volume (ABV) and not serving sizes or the number of servings per container.
Whether served in a bar or restaurant or poured at home, drinks often contain more alcohol than people think. It’s easy and common for patients to underestimate their consumption.2,3 While there is no guaranteed safe amount of alcohol for anyone, general guidelines can help clinicians advise their patients and minimize the risks.
- Here, we will provide basic information about drink sizes, drinking patterns, and alcohol metabolism to help answer the question “how much is too much?” In short, the answer from current research is, the less alcohol, the better.
- A note on drinking level terms used in this Core article: The 2020-2025 states that for adults who choose to drink alcohol, women should have 1 drink or less in a day and men should have 2 drinks or less in a day.
These amounts are not intended as an average but rather a daily limit. brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration to 0.08 percent or more, which typically happens if a woman has 4 or more drinks, or a man has 5 or more drinks, within about 2 hours.
Will quitting drinking make me healthier?
Over time, your body can begin to recover from the influence of alcohol, and you can expect: A healthier heart and cardiovascular system. Decreased risk of cancers. Fewer illnesses due to your immune system improving.
Do you get happier when you stop drinking?
A Starting Point for Mental Health and Healing – The joy alcohol brings is temporary. Even though that glowing bottle of wine may appear to improve your mood, it’s just a fast, momentary fix. Over time, alcohol actually reduces levels of serotonin in your brain according to Tempest board member, Ruby Mehta, LCSW.
When you quit alcohol, your body a chance to increase serotonin without depletion, so you may actually feel happier over time. Still, improved mental health doesn’t always happen immediately or seamlessly once we remove alcohol (and that’s okay). Sobriety can be the starting point for confronting mental health issues.
For some, removing alcohol means seeing a change in mental health right away; for others, removing alcohol may reveal deeper issues, which can take more time to heal. As Yolanda Renteria, BSW, MA explains, “The impact of quitting alcohol tends to be different for everyone since there are people whose excessive alcohol consumption impacts them in different ways, but it inevitably improves the way they see themselves and their overall mental health.
Can a heavy drinker cut down?
Once my partner and I took a stunning walk along a peninsula while on vacation. Mid-afternoon, after hours of walking, we had reached the scenic highlight, surrounded on three sides by ocean. I was thrilled, but his mood fell. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “We don’t have a reservation for dinner,” he said.
This was in the era before cell phones. “Oh we’ll find something to eat,” I said. “Isn’t it beautiful here?” He said, “I’m going back now.” We had been there at most 10 minutes. “Why?” “We don’t have a reservation for dinner,” he repeated. As he walked away from me I began to shout but he kept going. I knew he couldn’t enjoy my company and the beauty of the spot because he was worried about how he’d get his next drink.
It was Sunday, so liquor shops were closed. A restaurant with a liquor license was essential. I let him walk away. It was hours later when we found each other again in our hotel room and I called him an ” alcoholic,” The word “alcoholic” is important because it suggests that you need treatment and, most people think, that you need to stop drinking entirely.
- Are you an alcoholic? More than a quarter of U.S.
- Adults report that they drank more than four or five drinks within about two hours in the past month-but less than 7 percent say they did this on five or more days.
- Let’s say you’re in the 7 percent and drink this much every Friday and Saturday night.
- Now let’s say it’s causing problems at your job and in your marriage,
Alcoholic or not, you have an issue. You’re a problem drinker, at least. Many problem drinkers are resistant to help or the idea of abstinence but are open to the idea of cutting back. If you attend an Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meeting and say you’d rather cut back than go sober, the answer you’ll probably hear is, “It won’t work for long.” To quote a 2018 AA pamphlet, “If you are an alcoholic, you will never be able to control your drinking for any length of time.
That leaves two paths open: to let your drinking become worse and worse with all the damaging results that follow, or to quit completely and to develop a new pattern of sober, constructive living.” So how do you know if you’re an alcoholic? The same AA pamphlet declares, “There is no such thing as being a little bit alcoholic.
Either you are, or you are not. And only the individual involved can say whether or not alcohol has become an unmanageable problem.” Do heavy drinkers cut back? Absolutely. Most heavy drinkers cut back even without treatment. One study using data from a large, general population sample of more than 22,000 U.S.
- Adults who drank found 512 very heavy drinkers: The men consumed more than 7 drinks a day on average and the women four.
- Three years later, 26 percent were still at it, but 66 percent had cut back, although only 7 percent had become abstinent.
- The numbers were similar for another 1600 people with a milder drinking issue: 60 percent or more had cut back and few had become abstinent.
Were any of these drinkers alcoholic? Only half of the very heavy drinking group had a diagnosis of alcohol dependence. But again, most of the dependent group cut back. Did cutting back help them? Yes. The researchers concluded that drinking less cut their chances of developing a dependency.
AA meetings are full of stories of people who quit drinking for a spell or cut back. The question is how long you can keep up a more moderate drinking style. Will a moderation group help you? If you want the group peer support you get in AA, but don’t want to aim for abstinence you can try another non-profit called Moderation Management (MM).
In a MM group, you’ll start by keeping a record of your drinking and scoring yourself on a test with questions like “Do you plan your day around when and where you can drink?” (My partner’s focus on his dinner reservation was a serious sign.) If you decide that moderation could work for you, you’ll go alcohol-free for 30 days.
- In that time, you’ll have a lot of thinking to do, learning skills to manage your drinking, starting new activities that will displace drinking and setting your own rules for moderation.
- A 2003 study found that most MM members have mild alcohol problems and had never participated in alcohol treatment.
Why would you choose abstinence? Abstinence isn’t easy for drinkers to achieve. Most people relapse into at least some drinking within the first year of finishing treatment. But research has shown that people who enter alcohol treatment with abstinence as their goal are drinking less two and a half years later than people who only aim to cut back.
When I called my partner an alcoholic, he denied it, pointing out that he sometimes stopped drinking for long spells (this is actually evidence you’re struggling with alcohol, but I didn’t know this at the time). He eventually died at 55 of liver damage after an intense drinking spell. He had lost his job, and alcohol was how he coped.
People would ask me, “Was he an alcoholic?” After hearing this dumb question over and over — in my head I was thinking, “He died. What else do you need to know?” — I came to realize that it really meant, “How did you know he was an alcoholic, because I’m wondering whether I has a problem that could be serious.” The label of “alcoholic” isn’t worth fighting or dying over.
What happens to your body after 4 weeks of not drinking alcohol?
One month alcohol-free – what’s happening in your body? A lovely side effect of no booze might start to appear around this time: your skin starting to look amazing. Alcohol reduces the production of anti-diuretic hormone, so you lose water and sodium more quickly.
- A low tissue water content, courtesy of your daily tipple, is the sworn enemy of soft, plump, peachy skin.
- As if that wasn’t enough, a few weeks off the sauce should see the size of facial pores diminish too.
- If you’ve got high blood pressure, there’s a good chance it’ll start to come down by the end of your challenge.
Research has found that just four weeks without a drink can be enough to start lowering both blood pressure and heart rate.* Your risk of type 2 diabetes has already started to reduce (in one study insulin resistance came down by an average of 28 per cent) and your cholesterol levels should be starting to lower.
- But what about your liver? Your poor old liver has to process booze into waste products along with the other 500 or so tasks it performs in your body.
- So giving it a little holiday means that it can focus on its other jobs.
- One research study found that just four weeks without a drink can substantially reduce liver ‘stiffness’.† Brilliant! Who wants a stiff liver?! (This stiffness is an early sign of liver disease, in case you were wondering.) And how about number twos? If you’ve been experiencing bloating, wind and either diarrhoea or constipation, you’ve probably noticed a reduction in symptoms by now.
Relief all round. Booze suppresses your body’s immune system, so when you’re free and clear of it for a few weeks you’ll notice that you are less likely to succumb to every little cold virus that hits the office, and even if you do come down with something, your recovery time will be reduced.
- There. Hope you’re feeling better already.
- Your risk of developing certain cancers, including two of the most common worldwide – breast and colorectal – is diminishing.
- According to a 2018 report in the Lancet, by reducing your drinking, you also reduce your risk of strokes, heart disease and hypertensive disease and could increase your life expectancy.+ Remember, some people will experience the benefits of going dry at different times, or not at all.
This can be down to how much you were drinking before, other lifestyle changes or just the quirks of your particular body. That doesn’t mean your month off hasn’t done you good, and it doesn’t mean you won’t feel better over the longer term – so don’t give up! There are plenty of good things happening internally which you might not notice at first.
- Teresa Aguilera, M., de la Sierra, A., Coca, Antonio, Estruch, Ramon, Fernández-Solà, Joaquim, Urbano-Márquez, A., 1999, ‘Effect of alcohol abstinence on blood pressure: Assessment by 24-Hour ambulatory blood pressure monitoring’, Hypertension 33, 653-7.
- Mehta, G., et al., 2015, ‘Short term abstinence from alcohol improves insulin resistance and fatty liver phenotype in moderate drinkers’, Hepatology 62(1), 267A + Wood, A.M., et al., 2018, ‘Risk thresholds for alcohol consumption: Combined analysis of individual-participant data for 599,912 current drinkers in 83 prospective studies’, Lancet 391(10 129), 1513–23.
: One month alcohol-free – what’s happening in your body?