How to Taper Off Alcohol to Avoid Withdrawal

If you’re interested in quitting your drinking habit, you may be concerned with the withdrawal experience. This can be a painful and difficult process, so it’s important to understand how to quit safely.

In this article, we’re taking a closer look at how to taper off alcohol to avoid withdrawal.

How to Taper Off Alcohol to Avoid Withdrawal Symptoms

How to Taper Off Alcohol to Avoid Withdrawal

If you have withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking, it may be time to learn how to taper off alcohol to avoid withdrawal.

Don’t you love it when people say, “Just quit drinking,” like it is just that easy?

They have no idea that an immediate ceasing of drinking alcohol can create more problems, serious physical problems, depending on how much alcohol you consume daily.

For dependent drinkers, withdrawal from alcohol can be dangerous. If you are having trouble putting down the bottle, then here’s how to taper off alcohol to avoid those withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Typical nausea, vomiting, tremors, spasms, and other negative withdrawal symptoms can appear within hours of the last drink. These are the symptoms that usually lead to relapse because they are so severe that they interfere with a person’s ability to function.

Those who drink enormous amounts of alcohol each day can expect withdrawal symptoms to be worse. That means they are more dangerous too.

Organs like the kidneys and liver are a big part of the process of eliminating alcohol from the body. Drinking too much alcohol can damage these organs. During a cold turkey detox, these organs can malfunction. Some have experienced seizures when trying to quit cold turkey.

To avoid withdrawal like this, many are choosing to taper off alcohol versus quitting cold turkey.

What Does It Mean to Taper Off Alcohol?

Tapering off alcohol means to reduce the amount of alcohol you consume, over time. Do this until, eventually, you are no longer consuming alcohol at all. For example, if you drink six beers a day, you will start to tamper off by consuming only five beers a day. Then four, three, two, one, and none. 

Other ways to taper off alcohol, other than reduce the number of drinks you have, is to drink water or soda in between alcoholic beverages. Have a shot of whiskey, drink water for two hours, have another shot of whiskey. Rather than consuming back to back alcohol-filled drinks, you are replacing some with a non-alcoholic beverage.

Tapering off alcohol may also include switching to a drink you don’t care to try and reduce the number of drinks you have. Or, mix cocktails so that the amount of whiskey added in the glass is far less than the amount of water, soda, or juice.

Can Tapering Off Alcohol Work?

The short answer, yes, it can work. But you need to be very disciplined and structured to make it happen effectively.

People who can see the most success are those who can stick to a schedule of tapering off. A plan may be set up so that each day on the calendar allows less and less drinking. For instance, on Monday, you may be able to have six beers. Tuesday, five beers, and so on. 

The heavier drinkers may need to spend weeks or months tapering off to avoid severe withdrawals.

Successful tampering also comes with accountability. You must work with someone who can hold you accountable if you break your tapering off schedule or try to justify a continuance of drinking.

Your tapering off plan should also be supervised by medical professionals. Even when using this method to quit drinking, withdrawal symptoms may appear. Addiction specialists can help you ease these symptoms.

Plus, if you are taking any other medications, prescribed or illegal, you need to make your doctor aware, so he or she can help you avoid additional unexpected withdrawal consequences.

Harm Reduction is Hard

Many reports refer to tapering off alcohol as harm reduction practices. They mean the same thing: making choices and implementing actions that help you drink less and, therefore, do less harm to you or someone else.

This means making healthy decisions about drinking behaviors. This statement alone is confusing, right? The best choice would be not to drink at all. But we are talking about tapering off, which means you will be drinking. 

Also, once you start drinking, it is often hard to follow through with the decision you made. You have the best intentions. You only plan to drink two beers tonight. After those two beers, you are feeling good, and your brain wants more of the substance boosting your dopamine levels. It becomes easy to talk yourself into drinking more, breaking your promise to yourself.

What follows? Guilt.

To break this cycle, you need help. It’s too hard to do it alone. Getting help shows your strength and desire to reduce the amount of alcohol you consume.

Ideas to Help You Taper

Some quick tips for tapering off alcohol include first, put together a support team that provides for medical help, family, and friends. 

Work with an addictions specialist to develop a tapering off schedule that you can stick to, and a plan of action for when you can’t stick to your schedule. For example, if you can’t stick to a tapering off schedule, entering a detox facility is the right choice. 

Other tips include not combining medications with alcohol, especially medicines that slow the respiratory system. Also, agree to only drink in safe environments, eat full meals before drinking, or in between the times you drink.

Buy less alcohol or find ways to restrict your access to alcohol.  

Place Yourself In a Supportive Setting

Finally, tell everyone, including the bartenders, you are on a plan to taper off alcohol. The people who support you in your mission are the ones who care about you. The people who mock your ideas or try to prevent you from getting sober should not be included in your support system.

You want to surround yourself with people who will be honest, even when what they tell you is unpleasant. You want people who will remind you why you set this goal in the first place, and who will hold you accountable because they want you to succeed.

Get creative, and with the help of your therapist, friends, and family, develop harm reduction strategies that work for you and your lifestyle. Each time you reduce something, like drinking, remember to replace that action with something positive.

With a proper tapering off-plan, you can succeed in avoiding withdrawal symptoms as you eliminate alcohol.

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