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How Do I Know if I Need to Quit Drinking Alcohol?

The easiest way to know if you need to quit drinking alcohol is to try to stop. If you are successful in limiting alcohol intake, you might not need to stop long-term. You might choose to stop drinking or curb your drinking, but if you’re able to so, it’s unlikely you have a problem with alcohol use. 

If you choose to stop drinking, most experts recommend at least a three-day alcohol sabbatical. If you experience withdrawal symptoms or your life is dramatically affected, it’s a sign you have a problem. 

Another way to determine if it’s time to cut back on or stop drinking alcohol is to assess your life. 

Self-reflection helps you determine if you are happy with the status of things or if you want to change. If your friends and family express displeasure with your alcohol consumption or your work or school life are suffering, it’s a sign of a problem. 

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) occurs when you cannot control how much you drink. It’s a brain disorder, and requires more than just willpower to overcome. However, you don’t need AUD to know that it’s time to quit drinking alcohol. For some, controlling their alcohol consumption is an important factor in avoiding AUD.

6 Ways to Stop Drinking

Here are six ways to stop drinking alcohol:

  1. Seek counseling and self-reflect to determine the reason you drink.
  2. Spend time with people who do not drink and avoid friends with whom you spend time drinking.
  3. Make it difficult to access alcohol. Get rid of alcohol in your home and avoid liquor stores and bars.
  4. Seek inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, or attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings.
  5. Reshape habits that were linked to drinking. For example, if you usually stop by a bar for happy hour, plan an alternative after-work activity. 
  6. Attend Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) or other support groups that offer peer support.

Find Help For Your Addiction

You don’t have to overcome your addiction alone. Professional guidance and support is available. Begin a life of recovery by reaching out to a specialist today.

9 Ways to Reduce Alcohol Use

Here are nine ways to reduce, or cut back on, alcohol use:

  1. Commit to reducing alcohol use in writing. List the reasons why you want to cut back and refer to the list for motivation.
  2. Set a limit goal. For example, commit to changing your drinking habits and have no more than two drinks per week or drinking only one day a week. Or approach this strategy from the reverse and schedule alcohol-free days.
  3. Journal about your drinking for a few weeks. Keep track of when you drink, how much, what you’re doing, and how you feel before, during, and after drinking.
  4. Don’t keep alcohol at home. This will naturally reduce cravings and urges to drink.
  5. Drink slowly. Set a time for how long it will take you to sip a drink and try not to finish a drink sooner than this time.
  6. Counter each alcoholic drink with water, soda, or juice. This can also help reduce alcohol cravings. 
  7. Schedule activities that don’t revolve around drinking. Instead of meeting friends for a drink, go for a walk, see a movie, or play sports.
  8. Let friends and family members know you’re cutting back on alcohol intake. Also, ask them to support your efforts.
  9. Avoid places and people that test your willpower. Try to go places that do not encourage drinking. 

How Long Does it Take to Quit Drinking?

The length of time it takes to quit drinking varies from person to person. Some people decide to quit cold turkey and never drink alcohol again. Others decide to give up alcohol temporarily and do so with short-term success. Success is often based on whether or not no longer drinking alcohol is a big change.

However, if someone has AUD or is addicted to alcohol, quitting drinking is a long process. 

In general, it takes about 6 to 24 hours to detox from alcohol (or up to 10 days in extreme cases). The symptoms you experience when you give up alcohol vary depending on how much and for how long you drank. Giving up alcohol long-term for a heavy drinker with an addiction is a life-long process. 

As an alcoholic, maintaining sobriety is a daily effort. It’s important to remember that heavy drinkers require medical supervision when giving up alcohol.

What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking?

How your body responds to a lack of alcohol depends on how long and how much you’ve been drinking when you stop. For some, there will be little to no physical response. They might feel exactly the same or they might feel a little more energetic or hydrated.

But for long-term drinkers, stopping drinking triggers a variety of side effects. 

If the body is addicted to alcohol, detox and withdrawal symptoms are likely. These include:

  • Shaking
  • Sweating
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Mood swings
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Dilated pupils
  • Loss of appetite
  • Delirium tremens (DTs)

Delirium tremens (DTs) are a serious and potentially fatal response to alcohol withdrawal. Symptoms of DTs include:

  • Tremors
  • Agitation or irritability
  • Confusion
  • Disorientation
  • Lack of focus
  • Days of deep sleep
  • Delirium
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Excitement
  • Hallucinations
  • Restlessness
  • Sensitivity to sound, light, and touch
  • Seizures

Can I Quit Drinking On My Own?

Maybe. If you aren’t addicted to alcohol, you should be able to not drink on your own. 

It’s important to recognize that not being able to stop when you want to do so is a sign you have a problem. If you try to stop and you’re unsuccessful or you experience signs of withdrawal, it’s important to seek medical attention.

If you aren’t addicted and you wish to stop, the following tips can help with your effort:

  • Avoid scenarios in which you tend to drink
  • Replace alcohol with other drinks
  • Replace drinking time with other activities
  • Create and stick to a routine that doesn’t include drinking
  • Schedule exercise on a daily basis
  • Let other people know you are trying to stop drinking
  • Figure out which activities other than drinking help you manage stress and make sure you’re doing them

These tips can help people long-term with AUD, but additional medical support is also needed. Stopping drinking when you have an addiction is not about willpower. You should not feel ashamed or embarrassed to seek help if you are unable to stop drinking on your own.

When to Seek Alcohol Addiction Treatment (& Options)

Knowing when to seek alcohol addiction treatment is an important part of a successful recovery. Some signs that substance abuse treatment might be needed include:

  • Being unable to limit alcohol consumption
  • Taking more time to recover after drinking
  • Spending more and more time drinking
  • Having a strong urge or craving to drink
  • Thinking about drinking often
  • Having issues at work or school because of drinking
  • Memory loss
  • Neglecting responsibilities because of drinking
  • Avoiding things you previously enjoyed so you can drink

The sooner you get help for alcohol use the less likely you are to suffer long-term consequences. 

There is no right or wrong time to seek treatment. If you believe you need help, you should seek help.

Treatment options for alcohol abuse and addiction include:

  • Residential care (inpatient treatment) — onsite round-the-clock support and lets you focus entirely on recovery and sober living.
  • Intensive outpatient care — individual and group therapy for several hours each day without removing you from your normal life.
  • Outpatient treatment — therapy approximately once a week through a variety of resources.
  • 12-step programs, including AA — camaraderie and support in a group setting with other alcoholics

Medication-assisted treatment (MAT) — pharmaceutical support for treating addiction

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“What Is Excessive Alcohol Use? | Infographics | Online Media | Alcohol | CDC.” Www.cdc.gov, 30 Dec. 2019, https://www.cdc.gov/alcohol/onlinemedia/infographics/excessive-alcohol-use.html.

 “SAMHSA - Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.” Samhsa.gov, 2000, https://www.samhsa.gov/.

“The ADA, Addiction and Recovery | ADA National Network.” adata.org, https://www.adata.org/factsheet/ada-addiction-and-recovery.

 “Rethinking Drinking Homepage - NIAAA.” Nih.gov, 2019, https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/.

“Drinking Levels Defined | National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).” Nih.gov, 2017, https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/moderate-binge-drinking.

Publishing, Harvard Health. “11 Ways to Curb Your Drinking.” Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/diseases-and-conditions/11-ways-to-curb-your-drinking.

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