Increased tolerance to alcohol, withdrawal symptoms when not drinking, and continued use despite negative consequences indicate potential addiction. If you’re consistently thinking about alcohol, struggling to control your drinking, or experiencing physical symptoms when abstaining, it might be time to seek help. If you are addicted to alcohol, pills, or illegal drugs, the first step toward recovery is detox. Also called detoxification or withdrawal treatment, detox is the process of clearing the substance from your body. People with moderate to severe alcohol addiction may find an alcohol taper difficult to accomplish. If you have trouble controlling how much you drink or experience significant alcohol cravings, you may need professional help instead of trying to taper your alcohol use at home.
Alcohol can significantly affect personal relationships and responsibilities. If your drinking is causing disagreements, damaging relationships, or impacting your duties and interests, it’s a clear sign of a problem. This situation calls for a reflection on your alcohol use and its implications on your life and the people around you. how to taper off alcohol However, it should not cause someone to become stuck on a step, which would defeat the purpose of a taper. A person is free to increase the taper speed (e.g., lower by three drinks instead of two) as they see fit. While the safest way to taper is with professional help in a detox facility, this may not be an option for everyone.
Figure out how much you actually drink
As Johann Hari explains in his Ted Talk,7 addiction is partially a disease of shame and isolation. Helping people with drug or alcohol dependence feel valued, and that they have a worthwhile life to live outside of their addiction, often plays a big role in recovery. Tapering is meant to reduce the withdrawal symptoms from quitting alcohol, but this isn’t a guarantee.
Overall, recovering from alcoholism is about giving yourself time, caring for yourself, finding a healthy support system, and remaining persistent. For some, the issue may not be daily, heavy drinking, but a pattern of binging on certain evenings or weekends. For those who have already quit and want help managing cravings, there is also acamprosate, an abstinence maintenance medication that helps rebalance your brain chemistry. And beyond these, there are several off-label medications that can be useful, including gabapentin, topiramate, and baclofen. But, as many in recovery will tell you, it is only the first chapter in a long process. If you are experiencing symptoms of delirium tremens (DT), contact emergency services immediately.
Why Stigma Makes Addiction Worse (and How We Can End It)
The process of tapering yourself off alcohol begins with planning. From here, you can plan a schedule for gradually reducing how much you drink per day. Ideally, this schedule will be determined with the assistance of a doctor or addiction treatment professional. As many as 71%8 of people who go through alcohol detox experience symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. When a person decides to stop drinking, they must decide whether to stop “cold turkey” or taper their alcohol use. Quitting cold turkey involves suddenly stopping all alcohol use, while tapering involves slowly decreasing the amount of alcohol a person drinks each day.
Overall, do whatever you can to make yourself as comfortable as possible. If you’re sweating, place a cold towel on your forehead or on the back of your neck. Prepare a playlist of your favorite songs or movies to pass the time. John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction https://ecosoberhouse.com/ medicine and preventative medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). You may also consider joining an online support group to help you feel less alone.
Medical Detox for Tapering off Alcohol
If you drink alcohol and are thinking about quitting, it is important to make sure you do so safely. One of the safest ways to quit drinking is through tapering, which involves slowly reducing your alcohol intake over time. More serious alcohol withdrawal symptoms may require medical attention. If you have a friend or family member who knows that you’re trying to taper off alcohol, you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help. They can take you to the hospital or help you get medical support.
Alcohol withdrawal can produce both physical and psychological symptoms. The severity of the symptoms you will experience often depends on the amount and duration of your alcohol consumption. It can be helpful to make a plan ahead of time for how to handle a relapse. For example, some people choose to write a list of reasons why they want to stop drinking alcohol, and revisit the list to remind themselves after a relapse. You may want to speak with a loved one or therapist about a strategy to prevent relapses from happening.
People who have successfully tapered from alcohol before may be especially likely to benefit from this strategy. At-home detox may be OK if you’re otherwise healthy and haven’t been using drugs for very long. If you believe it’s your best option, get a doctor to review your situation and approve the plan before you start.
If you’ve decided to taper off alcohol, you’ll need to be prepared with some strategies to make the process easier. You’ll likely face the urge to drink more than you’ve planned each day, but there are some good tricks to help you delay that next serving and keep yourself honest. Quitting binge drinking may require different strategies than either tapering or cold turkey. The experience of withdrawing from alcohol can be uncomfortable and difficult. Some people may relapse, or drink alcohol again, to relieve the symptoms. Avoid people who may encourage you to drink alcohol or may not support your decision to stop.