Many people with an alcohol problem need to completely stop using alcohol. This is called abstinence. Having strong social and family support can help make it easier to quit drinking.
Some people are able to just cut back on their drinking. So even if you don’t give up alcohol altogether, you may be able to drink less. This can improve your health and relationships with others. It can also help you perform better at work or school.
However, many people who drink too much find they can’t just cut back. Abstinence may be the only way to manage a drinking problem.
DECIDING TO QUIT
Like many people with an alcohol problem, you may not recognize that your drinking has gotten out of hand. An important first step is to be aware of how much you drink. It also helps to understand the health risks of alcohol.
If you decide to quit drinking, talk with your health care provider. Treatment involves helping you realize how much your alcohol use is harming your life and the lives those around you.
Depending on how much and how long you’ve been drinking, you may be at risk for alcohol withdrawal. Withdrawal can be very uncomfortable and even life-threatening. If you have been drinking a lot, you should cut back or stop drinking only under the care of a doctor. Talk with your health care provider about how to stop using alcohol.
Alcohol recovery or support programs can help you stop drinking completely. These programs usually offer:
- Education about alcoholism and its effects
- Counseling and therapy to discuss how to control your thoughts and behaviors
- Physical health care
For the best chance of success, you should live with people who support your efforts to avoid alcohol. Some programs offer housing options for people with alcohol problems. Depending on your needs and the programs that are available:
- You may be treated in a special recovery center (inpatient)
- You may attend a program while you live at home (outpatient)
You may be prescribed medicines to help you quit. They are often used with long-term counseling or support groups.
These drugs make it less likely that you will drink again or help limit the amount you drink.
- Acamprosate may help prevent relapse.
- Disulfiram (Antabuse) produces very unpleasant side effects if you drink even a small amount of alcohol.
- Naltrexone (Vivitrol) decreases alcohol cravings. It is available in a pill or as an injection.
Drinking may mask depression or other mood or anxiety disorders. If you have a mood disorder, it may become more noticeable when you stop drinking. Your health care provider will treat any mental disorders in addition to your alcohol treatment.