9 Tips for Cutting Back on Drinking

Use Whatever Works for You


Have you been thinking about cutting back on the amount of alcohol that you drink? Maybe you have experienced some negative health effects because of your drinking, or perhaps you just don't snap back like you used to after a drinking session.

If the amount of alcohol that you have been drinking exceeds recommended guidelines and puts you at risk for developing alcohol-related problems, you may want to try cutting down or moderating your consumption.

If you are currently drinking more than the recommended guidelines, any change that you make, even small changes, can help you reduce the harm that alcohol can cause. The less you drink, the lower your risk of developing problems.

It's called harm reduction. Your goal is to improve your health and your life by reducing the effects of alcohol.

On the following pages are some tips and tricks that have helped others cut down on their drinking, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Some of these may be helpful to you and others may not work.

The key to successfully cutting down is to find something that works for you. Try these tips and if one doesn't work, try another until you find one that helps you cut back on your alcohol consumption.

Set a Realistic Goal

Writing a List
Write Down Your Goals. © Getty Images

Write down how many drinks you want to drink per day and how many days a week you want to drink. Writing down your goals can help remind you that you want to limit your drinking. People who drink within the recommended guidelines have much lower risk of developing problems.

Count Your Drinks

Count Your Drinks. © Getty Images

Making the effort to record how many drinks you have may also help you reduce or slow down your drinking. You can use a handwritten note that you keep in your wallet or record your drinks on your smartphone or PDA, whatever is more convenient for you.

Measure Your Drinks

Pouring a Drinking
Make Sure You Aren't Over Pouring. © Getty Images

If you are going to count how many drinks you have, make sure you are accurate. Learn what counts as a standard drink so that you can accurately measure how many you have had. Stick to your goal even when you are away from home, dining out or in a bar.

Pace Yourself

Sipping a Drink
Try to Pace Yourself, Sip Instead of Gulp. © Getty Images

Some drinkers trying to cut down have been successful by pacing their drinking - sipping their drinks slowly or making sure they have only one drink per hour. People who consume drinks quickly, particularly the first few drinks, are at greater risk of developing alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.

Space Your Drinks

Woman Drinking Water
Drink Water During Drinking Sessions. © Getty Images

Another trick for cutting down alcohol consumption is to use drink spacers - nonalcoholic beverages between drinks containing alcohol. Some drinkers will alternate a drink of water, juice or soda between their alcoholic beverages to slow down their consumption. No matter how much you drink, it's always a good idea to drink plenty of water along with your alcoholic beverages.

Don't Forget to Eat

Woman Eating in Bar
Don't Forget to Eat. © Getty Images

For some drinkers, eating food will reduce their craving for alcohol. This is not true for all drinkers, but if eating something reduces your craving for a drink, making sure you eat a meal at times when you usually drink might help you reduce the amount you drink. Of course, it is not wise for anyone to drink on an empty stomach.

Avoid Your Triggers

Man Smoking in Bar
Smoking Can Trigger Cravings for Alcohol. © Getty Images

Whether you are trying to cut down or quit drinking altogether, it is a good idea to avoid situations in which you are used to drinking. People, places, things and certain activities can be triggers that cause you to have an urge to drink. Avoiding those triggers can prevent you from drinking when you otherwise might not do so. Remember, your health is at stake.

Do Something Else

Man Fishing With Son
Find Some Activity You Enjoy. © Getty Images

If drinking has become a big part of your life, try substituting other activities during those times when you might usually drink. Take up a hobby, begin an exercise program, make new friends, or spend more time with your family. Find something that you enjoy that will occupy the time during which you would usually be drinking.

Learn How to Say 'No'

Turned Down Wine Glass
Learn How to Decline Offers of Alcohol. © Getty Images

Chances are you are going to be in situations in which someone is going to offer you a drink or expect you to drink with them as you have done in the past. Learn how to politely say "no thank you," and really mean it. Say it quickly and firmly so that you don't give yourself time to change your mind. You may want to practice what you will say the next time your friends ask you to have a drink.

If You Can't Cut Down

Woman With Counselor
If You Can't Cut Back, You May Need Help. © Getty Images

If you find that you cannot cut down, you may have already developed a alcohol use disorder. You may need to try to quit drinking altogether or seek help to quit.

If you find that you cannot cut back on your drinking, here are some resources that you may find helpful:

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

Continue Reading