Should You Cut Down Drinking Alcohol or Quit?

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Your decision: cut down or quit?. © Getty Images

If you have been drinking at a level that is considered high-risk or heavy drinking, you may want to consider making a change in your drinking patterns - or quit altogether. But which is the best choice for you? Should you try moderating your alcohol consumption, or should you try to quit?

Many people do learn to moderate their drinking and are successful in returning to a pattern of low-risk drinking.

Just as there are support groups for those trying to quit drinking, there are support groups for those who are trying to cut down or moderate their drinking.

When Cutting Down Doesn't Work

If you try to cut down, but find that you cannot stay within the limits that you set for yourself, it may be best to quit instead. One of the main reasons that people decide to quit drinking and seek help to do so is because they find they have lost the ability to control the amount they drink.

You are the person who is in the best position to make the decision of whether to cut down or quit. If you can consistently drink one or two drinks and no more, then you may be able to cut down to a low-risk drinking pattern. But if you find that those first two drinks usually trigger an urge for more and you rarely drink only two, chances are moderation is not an option.

When Quitting Is Advised

There are other reasons that quitting drinking may be a better option for you than moderation or cutting down, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA):

  • If you have been diagnosed with an alcohol use disorder, or you currently have symptoms of alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.
  • If you have certain medical conditions, such as cirrhosis of the liver, hepatitis C, chronic pain, certain heart conditions, or mental disorders such as bipolar disorder.
  • If you are taking certain medications that can negatively interact with alcohol.
  • If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant.

Other Reasons to Quit

If you are planning to make a change in your drinking, it is best if you discuss the decision with your healthcare provider. According to the NIAAA, even if you do not fit into any of the above categories, your physician may recommend that you quit drinking based on other factors, such as:

  • A family history of alcoholism
  • Your age
  • If you have had alcohol-related injuries
  • Alcohol-related sleep disturbances or sexual dysfunction

It's Your Decision

Whatever your decision - to cut down or to quit drinking - there is support available to help you met your goals. If you decide to quit, you may want to seek help. You do not have to do it on your own.


National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. "Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and Your Health." February 2009.

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