Tips on cutting down

If you regularly drink more than the recommended limits, try these simple tips to help you cut down.

Make a plan
Before you start drinking, set a limit on how much you’re going to drink.

Set a budget
Only take a fixed amount of money to spend on alcohol.

Let them know
If you let your friends and family know you’re cutting down and that it’s important to you, you could get support from them.

Take it a day at a time
Cut back a little each day. That way, every day you do is a success.

Make it a smaller one
You can still enjoy a drink but go for smaller sizes. Try bottled beer instead of pints, or a small glass of wine instead of a large one.

Have a lower-strength drink
Cut down the alcohol by swapping strong beers or wines for ones with a lower strength (ABV in %). You'll find this information on the bottle.

Stay hydrated
Drink a pint of water before you start drinking, and don't use alcohol to quench your thirst. Have a soft drink instead.

Take a break
Have the odd day each week when you don’t have an alcoholic drink.

Benefits of cutting down

The immediate effects of cutting down include:

  • feeling better in the mornings
  • being less tired during the day
  • your skin may start to look better
  • you’ll start to feel fitter
  • you may stop gaining weight

Long-term benefits include:

There’s a strong link between heavy drinking and depression, and hangovers often make you feel anxious and low. If you already feel anxious or sad, drinking can make this worse, so cutting down may put you in a better mood generally.

Drinking can affect your sleep. Although it can help some people fall asleep quickly, it can disrupt your sleep patterns and stop you from sleeping deeply. So cutting down on alcohol should help you feel more rested when you wake up.

Drinking can affect your judgement and behaviour. You may behave irrationally or aggressively when you’re drunk. Memory loss can be a problem during drinking and in the long term for regular heavy drinkers.

Long-term heavy drinking can lead to your heart becoming enlarged. This is a serious condition that can’t be completely reversed, but stopping drinking can stop it getting worse.

Immune system
Regular drinking can affect your immune system. Heavy drinkers tend to catch more infectious diseases.

Drinking guidelines

  • Men should not regularly drink more than 3-4 units of alcohol a day
  • Women should not regularly drink more than 2-3 units a day
  • If you've had a heavy drinking session, avoid alcohol for 48 hours

    "Regularly" means drinking this amount every day or most days of the week.

    You may be surprised to find out how much you actually drink. Download a drinks diary (PDF, 697kb) to track your drinking over a week.

    Page last reviewed: 01/03/2014

    Next review due: 01/03/2016


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    The 18 comments posted are personal views. Any information they give has not been checked and may not be accurate.

    jimmy88 said on 11 November 2015

    Hi great post. I have tried cutting down but its very hard. Going cold turkey is the only way I can achieve this I am sure.

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    Agate said on 27 May 2015

    I have a glass or two of wine every night with my husband, fine. But then I watch telly, usually on my own as there is really nothing to watch, and I want a whisky. It is so warm and comforting and is a perfect anti-dote to the stresses of the day. I usually fall asleep after a couple of glasses. I drink about a litre in 5 or 6 days but it is creeping up. I wake at around 3 feeling miserable as I lost my job a couple of years ago and have not got over it. 22 out of 24 hours I want to stop, but the craving for it at around 8pm is overwhelming. I have been offered AA but feel they are too severe. It's good to know there are others out there.

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    Donifordbay said on 26 August 2014

    Hi,I am approaching 50, I have always drank as my mother had a problem when I was young. I worry about my son being around parents who both drink. I went to GP she made me feel guilty so I now lie to her. I really don't want to be this person, I can drink 2-3 bottles of wine every night. I am scared of the symptoms when you stop? What can I do. Who can I turn to?
    Is acupuncture or hypnosis an option?

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    Brian_AddictionBlog said on 05 June 2014

    Thanks for these tips. They are carefully selected and I think cutting down on drinking can help for people who can drink in moderation (around 30% of problem drinkers). I wanted to share something with Felix. It`s good that you are aware of your problem. The first step is very important. Different types of treatment are available for helping treat alcohol addiction and it all depends on the stage you`re in. We already have some guidelines on Addiction Blog, so I think this link could help Best to you!

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    felixtemplar said on 19 May 2014

    I too would do anything to stop drinking but I don,t have
    the will power.

    can anyone suggest an answer or a plan.


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    LTZ said on 09 November 2013

    Me and my partner drink at least 3 bottles of wine between us most nights and I really want to stop. The only problem is that I just can't sleep! I can get to sleep but after about two hours I'm wide awake and restless until its time to get up then I'm shattered again!! Any suggestions? I don't really want to resort to sleeping tablets yet ??

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    kennydafunk said on 27 October 2013

    By the way, stopping drinking will make you feel less stressed.

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    robbie49 said on 01 July 2013

    the above nhs help topics are marvellous,the topics must be accompanied by strong will power too, and you must want to cut down or stop alcohol completely. The benefits of
    sobriety far outweigh the buzz from alcohol.

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    manchestergirl said on 23 April 2013

    Thanks to all the above. I am going to stop the drink. I have drank a bottle of wine a night for years and at 46 I feel and look old. I too used to get complimented on my looks but no more. I feel tired and irritable all the time and snap for no reason. A visit to my GP has been a wake up call. I have been diagnosed with enlarged red blood cells. She asked dud I drink and how much. I was honest and she said this is far too much and did I agree which I said I did. I have to undergo blood tests etc now. I might have left it a bit late but I am not going to make myself worse by keep drinking. The comments made above have helped me make that decision. Thanks

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    pinkcarlady said on 02 March 2013

    Hubby had a well man check a few weeks ago and nurse asked him how much he drinks. Day before he'd had 2 pts guiness and a jack d and coke. He drinks this about once a week but that particular week he'd been out twice so had the same a few nights before. He's obviously now down on the surgery computer as a raving alcoholic as he was then asked all the usual - have you ever drunk so much that you can't remember what you did next day, do you ever get a hangover blah blah blah. I'm sure that next time he goes to the gp the first question will be how much do you drink. As an ex smoker the first thing I'm asked is did I smoke. Yes I did, you know I did it's on your computer even though Igave up over 20 years ago but I'm still makde to feel as if it's my fault I've got whatever is wrong with me.

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    Loughcrew said on 28 February 2013

    i have started to cut down, this is week 2 and i dont drink Sun to thurs any more. I was drinking wine every night and over a bottle some nights. My memory was very bad and i was making mistakes at work. Fortunataly i did not get a hangover.
    I now have tea or water in the evening. i so feel so much better and found it not to difficult to stop this although its early days. My family are so pleased with me which makes life so much better. my skin looks good too and althought i did not put on any weight i have lost some. My daughter said i was nasty with drink also.

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    lionel_sheff said on 27 November 2012

    having read the comments above yesterday i decided it was time for me to cut down on the drink,for the past 22 years i could probably count the amount of days i havn't had a drink on one hand.

    This really worries my partner and kids, while i try to fool me and everyone else its just a few drinks to wind down after work we all know thats not the case although it was for a few years at the begining.

    monday to thursday i usually get through about 8 cans of lager per night finished off with a bottle of wine,weekends will be at least 3 bottles and i darn't think how many cans.

    Anyway yesterday i decided enough was enough and went without last night and didn't have any at all.

    i didn't sleep very well but my partner says thats quite natural for a few days and it will get better (she's a nurse)

    I will be out celebrating a friends birthday friday night and i'll have a few saturday but then i'll leave it alone till the following weekend.

    Hopefully i can break the habbit of drinking during the week,lose a few pounds and getting back to a normal life just drink socially.

    thanks to everyone thats contributed to this page as its givin me the encouragement i needed.

    lionel in sheffield

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    alan3739united said on 30 August 2012

    When I stopped drinking for 60 days back in 2009, I thought I had finally beaten the habit. The first 10 days were hard, but quickly got easier as the days passed. By the 29th day, I was staying in a good hotel, eating in the restaurant where people on either side were drinking wine or beer and I did not feel at all envious. I was drinking orange and feeling better, physically and mentally, than I had for years. After about 7 weeks or so, the craving for alcohol returned. I phoned an NHS Helpline, and was told that as I had been drinking for many years I could not stop by self will alone. I was told there were prescription drugs available and I should visit my GP. I did, only to be told in his opinion, I was doing fine and did not require drugs. I started drinking again a few days later.

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    chalfont said on 03 August 2012

    I was drinking about 100 units a week. I didnt believe it at first as it was just a couple of beers with my dinner but then I would sit down and watch tv and have two or three more. I used to pass out (not really sleep) as soon as my head hit the pillow but I would be awake by about three in the morning. I would then go to work feeling tired and grumpy. If I played sport then I would always end up pulling a calf muscle, my back would ache and two or three times a year my neck would go into spasm. I knew that I had to change but was waiting for something to happen to trigger that change, ( yes I know how stupid that sounds now). I had to visit the doctor for an ear infection and she offered a well man type check including bloods, I became very defensive and declined but had to go to hospital none the less for treatment on my ear. The doctor there prescribed medication and asked me if I drank. I of course said yes but played down the amount. He told me I could not drink with the medication he was giving me and I remember my stomach sinking. I phoned home from the car park and told my wife and I then said that as it was Friday I would start the medication on Monday and just enjoy the weekend. Woke on Saturday with a hangover and thought to myself, right, thats it. I havent drunk since. That was nearly two years ago, I dont miss it at all, I sleep better, dont pull muscles and my neck is fine. I would encourage anyone who is concerned to remember, although I did it on my own, there is help out there, do not be embarrased as it is an addiction and illness, and remember, you can do it. Good luck.

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    planegreen said on 24 April 2012

    All the advice given here rings very true in my case. Drinking in excess has made me not only put weight on but I had a very healthy skin and people often thought I was younger than my age. Now I look in the mirror and my face looks years older and my skin is rank.

    I am now cutting right down and in two weeks only had a drink once. I have had a terrible year not sleeping very well and always waking in the night and I am sure this is related to everyday steady drinking. I was drinking half a bottle of vodka a day. That is not much compared to some people who drink 1+ litres per day but the effects are damaging on your health and then on you socially and in work life. All of these things suffered in my life and now I am putting the drinking away and already feel better after two weeks.

    Be careful what alcohol you consume and be honest with yourself. If your now drinking spirits in situations where it is not meant to be, i.e like at home on your own then you have a problem and are very likely spiraling into been an alcoholic. Take the positive steps and don't expect that someone will stop you doing it. You have to stop yourself!!.

    Stay healthy.

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    Mid Lifer said on 27 October 2011

    I had been drinking heavily for 25 years. First as a binge drinker and as I got older drinking in the home.

    I've really cut down over the past two months.

    One thing I did was to put a message on my wine bottle - saying 'Just one glass'. This helped me develop a new habit of stopping after having one drink.

    I personally, believe that to have this skills - all you need to do is practice it. Practice just having one drink - even at first it wasn't that hard and it soons becomes quite natural.

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    Mid Lifer said on 26 September 2011


    I'm cutting down right now. Just completed three weeks and am happy with my progress.

    Just a small point on make a plan - I've found before that I was very inconsistent with making a plan. I only occasionally thought about it before drinking.

    Now I use a 'trigger' to remind me. Where I keep the wine, I have a note that can't be missed and it basically reminds me that I'm only allowed one glass of wine a night. It's simple and effective.

    I now know in the house that I only drink one glass and outside the house, I've started to turn down drinks. This is real progress.

    I've written about this in more detail on my blog.

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