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Alcohol Problems: How to Stop Drinking


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You can take steps today to stop drinking. Your first step might be to see your doctor, contact a support group, or set a date in the near future to stop. While some people can stop drinking on their own, others need medical help to manage the physical process of withdrawal.

If you think you have an addiction to alcohol, talk to your doctor about whether you need to withdraw from alcohol under medical supervision. Your doctor can give you medicine that will help you safely withdraw from alcohol. Other medicines might be prescribed later to help you stay sober. With a doctor's help, withdrawal from alcohol is safer.

Stopping alcohol use can:

  • Prevent or reduce health problems that are made worse by alcohol use, such as liver damage.
  • Prevent harm to your unborn baby if you are pregnant.
  • Reduce related family concerns or relationship problems.
  • Increase your ability to be productive at work, school, and home.
  • Reduce legal problems that you might have as a result of misuse of alcohol.

More information about alcohol problems can be found in the topics Alcohol Abuse and Dependence, Alcohol and Drug Problems, and Teen Alcohol and Drug Abuse.

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You need education and emotional support when you stop drinking, especially if you abuse alcohol or are alcohol-dependent. Some resources that can help you stop drinking include:

  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Alcoholics Anonymous organizes meetings all over the world to help those who have a desire to stop drinking. The groups are made up of people who have had alcohol use problems, and you may stay anonymous.
  • Family medicine physicians or other doctors, psychologists, or other health professionals.
  • Inpatient or outpatient treatment centers or hospitals.
  • Local or national alcohol treatment hotlines (check your local white pages and yellow pages).

You can contact these organizations and health professionals by phone or by accessing their websites online.

Test Your Knowledge

If you want to stop drinking, you can seek help with any of the following: Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), your family doctor or counselor, a local hospital or alcohol treatment facility, or a local or national alcohol treatment hotline, which you can find in your local phone directory.

True
False

Stopping your use of alcohol can improve your general health and quality of life. It can also increase the quality of life of the people you live with and those who care about you. You decrease your chances of developing serious health problems associated with alcohol abuse or dependence. You reduce your chances of injuring yourself or others in alcohol-related accidents. You might also improve relationships with your parents, children, and spouse or other close loved ones. Not drinking also is a good way for you to model responsible behavior for younger people, particularly children and teens.

You can take steps today to stop drinking. Your first step might be to contact a support group, see your doctor, or set a date in the near future to stop. While some people can stop drinking on their own, others need medical help to manage the physical process of withdrawal.

If you think you have an addiction to alcohol, talk to your doctor about whether you need to withdraw from alcohol under medical supervision. Your doctor can give you medicine that will help you safely withdraw from alcohol. Other medicines might be prescribed later to help you stay sober. With a doctor's help, withdrawal from alcohol is safer.

Test Your Knowledge

If you think you have a problem with alcohol abuse or dependence, you should stop drinking.

True
False

Follow these steps to stop drinking alcohol.

  1. Identify your reasons. Make a list of the reasons you want to stop drinking alcohol. You might want to ask a trusted friend or family member to help you make the list complete. Keep this list so that you can renew your commitment from time to time. Use the form for identifying reasons to cut down on or stop alcohol useClick here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?).
  2. Make a plan. Set a date to stop drinking. Complete a plan to stop drinking alcohol. Post it in a place where you can see it often, such as on your refrigerator door or bathroom mirror. You might want to put it in more than one place. You also might want to put it on a card and keep it in your purse or wallet. See an example of a plan to stop drinking alcoholClick here to view a form.(What is a PDF document?).
  3. Share your plan with others. Talk with your family members and trusted friends about your plan. Let them know how they can help you to be successful.
  4. Evaluate your progress. In your plan, identify when you will evaluate your progress. Try a plan for 30 days so that the new behavior becomes a habit. Review your reasons for stopping alcohol use. Write down the benefits that you are seeing. If you drank after successfully stopping (relapse), it does not mean that you have failed. Relapse is common. Begin again, using your experience to help you learn how to stick with your plan this time.
  5. Continue your new behaviors. After trying this plan for 30 days, try it for another 30 days. Like anything else in life, it is not easy to change behavior, even when it might be in your best interest. But the more you practice new behaviors, the more likely it is that they will become habits. If you try this plan but are not successful, talk with your doctor about other ways to stop drinking alcohol.

Other things you can do

The following are other ideas that can help in your plan to stop using alcohol:

  • Avoid stumbling blocks. Many things can interfere with meeting your goal to cut down on or stop drinking. If your current life revolves around alcohol use, you might need to choose new friends or a new lifestyle. To stay focused on your goal and succeed, see ideas to help you stop using alcohol on your own.
  • Attend a self-help group. Some people attend self-help groups to help them stick to their plan to cut down on or stop drinking. If you are not sure whether a self-help group is for you but would like to try, go to a group at least 3 times before you make your decision. There are different types of groups (such as men or women only, discussion, and speaker). Go to another group if the first one does not fit your needs.
  • Reward yourself. Use the money that you are no longer spending on drinking to do something fun with your family or friends. Go out to eat, see a movie, or play sports or a game.

Test Your Knowledge

To stop drinking alcohol, you need to:

Identify your reasons.
Make a plan.
Evaluate your progress.

If you have questions about this information, take it with you when you visit your doctor or other health professional. You might want to mark areas or make notes where you have questions.

If you try this plan to stop using alcohol and are not successful, talk with your doctor about other ways to get help.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerE. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerPeter Monti, PhD - Alcohol and Addiction
Last RevisedJanuary 18, 2012

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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