Deciding to quit drinking alcohol
This article describes how to determine if you have a problem with alcohol use and offers advice on how to decide to quit drinking.
Alcohol use disorder - quitting drinking; Alcohol abuse - quitting drinking; Quitting drinking; Quitting alcohol; Alcoholism - deciding to quit
Recognizing you Have a Drinking Problem
Many people with drinking problems cannot tell when their drinking is out of control. You likely have a drinking problem when your body depends on alcohol to function and your drinking is causing problems with your health, social life, family, or job. Recognizing that you have a drinking problem is the first step toward being alcohol-free.
Talk with your health care provider about your drinking. Your provider can help you find the best treatment.
Are you Ready to Change?
You may have tried to stop drinking many times in the past and feel you have no control over it. Or you may be thinking about stopping, but you're not sure if you're ready to start.
Change takes place in stages and over time. The first stage is being ready to change. Important stages that follow include:
Many people go back and forth through the stages of change several times before the change really lasts. Plan ahead for what you will do if you slip up. Try not to be discouraged.
Lifestyle Changes That can Help
To help you control your drinking:
Getting Help From Others
After talking about your drinking with your provider or an alcohol counselor, you will likely be referred to an alcohol support group or recovery program. These programs:
You can also seek help and support from:
You may be at risk for symptoms of alcohol withdrawal if you stop drinking suddenly. If you are at risk, you will likely need to be under medical care while you stop drinking. Discuss this with your provider or alcohol counselor.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Fact sheets: alcohol use and your health. www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/alcohol-use.htm. Updated December 30, 2019. Accessed January 23, 2020.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Alcohol & your health. www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health. Accessed January 23, 2020.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism website. Alcohol use disorder. www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-use-disorders. Accessed January 23, 2020.
O'Connor PG. Alcohol use disorders. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 30.
Sherin K, Seikel S, Hale S. Alcohol use disorders. In: Rakel RE, Rakel DP, eds. Textbook of Family Medicine. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 48.
US Preventive Services Task Force. Screening and behavioral counseling interventions to reduce unhealthy alcohol use in adolescents and adults: US Preventive Services Task Force recommendation statement. JAMA. 2018;320(18):1899–1909. PMID: 30422199 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30422199/.
Review Date: 1/23/2020
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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