How can I reduce my drinking?
Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink can have lots of benefits: better sleep and more energy; your mental and physical health will benefit; it’s easier to manage your weight; you will perform better at work; and it will have a positive effect on your relationships. Not to mention the financial savings.
We are advised not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol a week*. If you regularly drink more than this, try some of the simple tips below to help you cut down.
*14 units is equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or seven regular glasses of low-strength wine. Find out more about alcohol units on the NHS website.
- Decide how much you are going to drink before you start.
- Set a budget for how much you will spend on alcohol.
- Tell your friends and family that you are cutting down so they can support you.
- Take small steps – a little reduction each day is a success each day.
- Reduce the volume you drink. Go for a smaller glass or try bottled beers instead of pints – just be sure to check the strength.
- Pick a lower strength drink. Even a slightly lower % makes a big difference. You’ll find this information on the label of the bottle (ABV in %).
- Make sure you are hydrated by having a glass of water before you have alcohol. Alternate alcoholic drinks with water or other non-alcoholic drinks.
- Have several days each week when you don’t drink. Start with one day and then increase to two or more days in a row.
When you drink alcohol with a meal you tend to drink more slowly. Also, drinking with food slows down the rate that alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream.
- Try having alcohol only with your evening meal.
- Wait until you are at the table with your meal before you start drinking.
- Always have glasses of water on the table – and keep topping them up.
- Use small wine glasses and don’t continually top them up.
- Try low alcohol or alcohol free wines, beer, gin, etc.
- Make wine into a longer drink with soda or lemonade.
- Stop drinking when you’ve finished eating. Your body will have more time to process the alcohol before you go to bed, meaning a better night’s sleep.
- Try making interesting non-alcoholic drinks to complement your food. Add some fresh berries to sparkling water or fruit cordials and serve with ice in a glass jug to make it feel special.
Lower alcohol drinks can be a great way to reduce your alcohol intake without cutting it out completely. There are so many options available now, including zero or 0.1% alcohol wines, beers, ciders and spirits.
- By switching to a lower strength alternative you will consume fewer alcohol units (as long as you have the same number of drinks!).
- Lower alcohol drinks contain fewer calories.
- The quality of low alcohol drinks has improved enormously – you might be pleasantly surprised.
- If you’re having a drink in a pub or bar, ask the bar staff about lower strength or non-alcoholic drinks.
Your drinking habits have probably changed over time. Perhaps you used to drink when out in town with friends, and now you find you’re spending more time at home.
At home, nobody calls time at the bar and you need to rely on your own discipline to know when to stop drinking.
Tolerance to alcohol
If you drink on a regular basis you might find that the amount of alcohol you drink before you start to feel the effects increases. Keep an eye on the recycling box or shopping receipts to see if you’re drinking more than you used to.
If you think you are tolerating a greater amount of alcohol, think about whether you could be becoming dependent. Do you use it regularly to unwind after work? Do you always have to drink when socialising?
Getting back on track
Here are some tips for resetting your alcohol intake.
- Stick to the alcohol unit guidelines of not regularly drinking more than 14 units a week.
- Think about what triggers you to have a drink and try to change your response. If you have a bad day at work and pour a glass of wine when you get home, try replacing it with a zero alcohol cocktail in a can. Or do some stretches or exercise – a much better way of relieving stress.
- If you feel under pressure, anxious or depressed, talk to someone close to you. Sharing your worries will make you feel much better than having a drink will.
- Give yourself a reward for any progress you make – like going to the cinema or extra time playing a computer game.
Drinking sensibly will be much easier once you have reset your tolerance. Plus you’ll have more energy and will look and feel healthier.
Warning signs you have a higher tolerance of alcohol
- You’re taking two bottles of wine to the party in case you run out.
- The amount of alcohol in your weekly shop is increasing.
- You’re finishing off an evening of drinking with a night cap.
- You buy bigger glasses.
- You’re drinking more than the daily unit guidelines most nights of the week.
If you are physically dependent on alcohol, stopping suddenly or going ‘cold turkey’ could be dangerous. Get advice from a medical professional – you may need medication to support you to give up alcohol.
You may need medical support if you experience these withdrawal symptoms:
- anxiety after waking
- sweating and tremors
- nausea or retching in the morning
- seizures or fits
Giving up alcohol completely will not be easy, especially if you’ve been a heavy drinker in the past. The following tips and techniques can make it that little bit easier.
- Tell your family and friends that you’re trying to stop drinking alcohol and explain why.
- Frequently remind yourself and the people close to you why you want to stop drinking. This can help keep you on track, and may even encourage someone else to give up or cut down with you.
- Avoid situations where you may be tempted to have a drink.
- Identify the times when you would usually drink and fill the gap with something else.
- Identify your ‘triggers’ that cause you to drink. How can you deal with them in a different way?
- Set yourself achievable goals.
- Don’t be hard on yourself if you slip up once in a while.
- Reward yourself for progress.
How can I stay safe when I drink?
Alcohol has a big impact on our mental and physical capabilities. If you’ve had a lot of alcohol it can affect your ability to make sensible decisions, to understand what’s going on around you and reduce your physical ability to look after yourself.
Drinking alcohol can:
- Affect our judgement and reasoning.
- Slow down our reactions.
- Upset our sense of balance and coordination.
- Impair our vision and hearing.
- Make us lose concentration and feel drowsy.
- Make sure you eat before you drink alcohol and drink water alongside alcoholic drinks.
- If you can feel yourself getting drunk, take some time out and drink some water.
- Keep an eye on your drink while you are out – drinks spiked with alcohol or drugs can make you vulnerable.
- Stick with friends on a night out to keep you safe.
- Be extra cautious if you are cooking, smoking or burning candles at home – you are more likely to have a house fire if you’ve been drinking.
- Be aware that the effects of alcohol could last well into the next day after a heavy drinking session.
- If you experience unwanted sexual attention, whether it’s verbal harassment, grabbing and groping, to more serious sexual assault, find someone you trust to help you. You may want to carry a rape alarm and make sure you have a reputable taxi company phone number in your phone.
- Drinking shots means consuming alcohol very quickly. Don’t be pressured into taking part.
- Be aware of higher ABV. Some craft spirit brands have a higher ABV that the “standard” 40%. Always check the side of the bottle, or ask at the bar, to see how strong your drink is.
- Avoid energy drinks with alcohol. They contain caffeine which will keep you awake longer so you may end up drinking more than you normally would.
- You don’t feel the cold as much when you have been drinking alcohol. This can make you unaware when you’re dangerously cold.
- Drinking alcohol dilates the blood vessels near your skin, which means more blood – and heat – flows to these vessels. This takes blood and heat away from the core of your body and your vital organs, which can be dangerous.
- If you go out in the cold after drinking, you can very quickly lose the heat that is near your skin’s surface, which can result in hyperthermia.
- Plan how you’re going to get home, stay with friends and have something warm to put on when you leave the pub. All of this will help to keep you safe when out drinking in cold weather.
Don’t be tempted by cheap fake alcohol. Drinking it can have very serious health implications, causing anything from nausea to blindness and even death.
What to look out for:
- Poor quality labelling, including things like spelling mistakes.
- UK duty stamp—spirits in bottles 35cl or larger and 30% ABV or higher are legally required to have a duty stamp, which indicates that tax is due on the contents of the bottle. If it’s not there, it’s illegal.
- Properly sealed caps. If the seal is broken, don’t drink it – it could have been tampered with.
- Fake bar codes. If you have an app on your mobile that scans bar codes, scan it and see if it’s listed as the correct product.
Drinking games can make you feel pressurised to drink more than you usually would and to take part in activity that you’re uncomfortable with and that could be dangerous.
Drinking high volumes of alcohol quickly can lead to alcohol poisoning which can have long term health consequences, and can even be fatal.
In a pub or bar, spirits are usually served in 25ml measures, 50ml for a double. Even when served with a mixer, it’s a much shorter drink than a pint of beer (568ml) or a small glass of wine (125ml). This means that spirits can be drunk faster than other alcoholic drinks and the danger is that you end up drinking more.
Shots can be a single spirit or several mixed together. They are designed to be drunk in one mouthful and so they take effect very quickly. People often have shots alongside other longer alcoholic drinks, meaning you take on a lot of alcohol very quickly.
Cocktails, especially homemade ones, can often contain a lot of alcohol in a fairly small volume of liquid, again meaning you drink them quickly and could end up drinking more than if you choose a longer drink.
Concerned that someone you know is drinking too much?
Firstly, get to know the signs that they might be drinking too much. Then equip yourself with the knowledge of how to talk about it and support them.
It’s easy to see when someone is visibly drunk, but the signs of a long-term problem with alcohol can be trickier to spot. As someone close to them, you may have seen changes in their behaviour such as not caring as much about their appearance, giving up sports and other hobbies, secrecy about where they have been and what they’ve been doing.
The best way to approach someone is with sensitivity and empathy. Think about how you would want someone to talk to you if you had the same problem. Show that you are concerned rather than disapproving. They are likely to be defensive at first, to deny they have a problem and perhaps to feel humiliated.
- Talk to them when they are sober and when you are both feeling calm and relaxed.
- Try to use positive language such as “I wonder if your health/wellbeing might be better if you cut down on your drinking a bit” or “You seemed really happy when you were going to yoga/football/your night class etc.”
- Avoid criticism and making judgements such as “you’re an alcoholic”.
- Be prepared – have information to hand about support and services they could use.
You may have to have several conversations before they accept they need some help. And they have to want to change their drinking habits – you can’t force them to do it.
The physical signs to look out for are:
- Speech becoming slurred.
- Unsteady on their feet or falling over.
- Facial flushing (red cheeks).
- Volume of the voice increases.
- Growing number of glasses or bottles in front of someone.
A person’s tolerance of alcohol can depend on things like their general health, their height and weight, gender, how much they’ve eaten that day and how they are feeling.
If you think someone has had too much to drink:
- Suggest you get some air together to take them away from the drinking situation.
- Bring them a glass of water, and have one yourself with them.
- Talk to them calmly and in a supportive way to show your concern.
If you think someone has alcohol poisoning, look for these symptoms:
- Loss of coordination – they might not be able to stand up
- Epileptic-like seizures
- Irregular breathing
- Look pale or almost blue
- Feel very cold
Alcohol poisoning can be very serious. Seek medical help immediately if you are concerned. You could call an ambulance if they are displaying severe symptoms, especially if they have vomited a lot, can’t stay awake or have a head injury. Alternatively, call 111 for advice about what to do, or see if you can help them to a walk-in clinic, minor injuries unit.
If you call 999, the call handler will talk you through what to do for the person. In general:
- They should be on their side to reduce the risk of choking if they vomit.
- Cover them with a jacket if it’s cold.
- Don’t try to move them.
- Don’t try and get them to drink water as they may choke.
- Stay with them to make sure they are safe.
Find alcohol support services around Doncaster.
Tel: 03000 213900
Aspire offers drug and alcohol support services to adults in and around Doncaster. They offer a highly structured six or twelve week programme for people who are using alcohol in a problematic way which may be causing issues within their home, work or family life.
Visit one of their hubs in Doncaster, Mexborough, Bentley or Stainforth.
Tel: 01302 360090
If you are worried about your drinking or drug use, or if have already started to make changes, Sober Social is here to support you whatever stage you are at.
This service is for you if are:
- over 18
- live in Doncaster
- are able to be sober when attending
We’re here to help people in Doncaster make better choices about drinking and reduce alcohol misuse and harm.
Tel: 0300 0213032
This service is for young people aged 5 – 19 years old.
Zone 5 to 19 is a service for Doncaster children, young people and families. It is delivered by a team of NHS professionals, who have lots of experience and expertise in all aspects of children and young people’s health and wellbeing.
Our team includes:
- school nurses
- substance misuse workers
- contraception and sexual health nurses
- youth and support workers
National support organisations
See what national support is available for alcohol dependence.
Alcohol Change UK is a leading UK alcohol charity, formed from the merger of Alcohol Concern and Alcohol Research UK.
We get people thinking and talking openly about alcohol to create more informed and balanced drinking cultures across the UK, with alcohol playing a less central role.
We work to help more people gain the motivation, confidence and ability to control their drinking, with less need for specialist support.
Drinkaware is the UK’s leading alcohol charity. Working together with individuals, communities, academics, researchers, industry and governments, we have a vision of reducing alcohol harm in the UK.
Tel: 0300 123 1110
Drinkchat is a free service for anyone who is looking for information or advice about their own, or someone else’s, alcohol use. Our trained advisors are on hand to give you some confidential advice. You don’t even have to make a phonecall.
Free helpline: 0300 123 1110
Weekdays 9am–8pm, weekends 11am–4pm
Drinkline runs a free, confidential helpline for people who are concerned about their drinking, or someone else’s.
The purpose of the Drinkline service is to offer free, confidential, accurate and consistent information and advice to callers who are concerned about their own or someone else’s drinking regardless of the caller’s age, gender, sexuality, ethnicity or spirituality.
The alcohol, drug and mental health charity With You has launched an over 50s Alcohol Helpline providing support and advice to individuals aged over 50 worried about their drinking, and their concerned others.
Tel: 0808 801 0750
Available 7 days a week
Monday to Friday at 12pm – 8pm and 10am to 4pm at weekends.
MyDrinkaware helps you to track your alcohol consumption and spend over time, calculate units and calories and set goals to help you moderate your drinking.
Drink Free Days is a simple and easy way to track the days you drink alcohol and the days you don’t. Feel healthier, lose weight and save money.
Drink Less is created by a team of psychologists at University College London to help drinkers reduce their consumption of alcohol.