Many people believe that the best method for stopping your dependency on alcohol is to quit cold turkey. However, this practice can be especially dangerous since there are numerous side effects which can occur during alcohol detox, particularly if you have been drinking heavily for a prolonged period of time. Withdrawal can be an unsafe process that may need to be supervised by a medical professional in order to assure a safe transition.
It is important to note that this article should not be taken as medical guidance. It is best to seek out the medical advice, guidance, and assistance of a licensed professional.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can include:
- Mild shaking
- Accelerated Heart Rate
- Increased Blood Pressure
Withdrawal can occur with differing levels of severity from mild to extreme. Mild symptoms can cause discomfort and, in some individuals, such as those with high blood pressure, heart disease or other serious medical condition, even mild symptoms should be monitored by a medical professional. In the most extreme cases of withdrawal, death can occur.
Who is at risk for alcohol withdrawal symptoms
- Individuals who have engaged in binge drinking for several days consecutively
- Individuals who have consumed significant quantities of alcohol every night for a period of a month or longer
- Individuals who have small servings of alcohol throughout each day for a period of a month or longer
When considering the need to kick the habit, it is important to be honest with yourself regarding your alcohol abuse. If you meet any of the descriptions above for who might be at risk for alcohol withdrawal, tapering your intake can be step one to kicking the habit.
What is alcohol tapering?
Alcohol tapering is the process of gradually reducing the intake of alcohol on a regular basis. For example, if you are the type of person who drinks a 12 pack of beer each night, alcohol tapering may begin with you consuming only 10 beers and moving down by intervals until you have stopped drinking entirely. Alcohol tapering is a strategic process in which you reduce your need or dependency on alcohol by slowly eliminating your alcohol intake.
Alcohol tapering is a process that can provide your body ample time to adjust to the removal of alcohol dependency and cravings. This helps in reducing the likelihood of developing severe withdrawal symptoms and can improve your potential for becoming sober.
You may want to consider alcohol tapering if you have noticed the arrival of mild symptoms of withdrawal, such as shaky hands, headaches, or excessive sweating if it has been several hours since your last drink.
7 Tips for Tapering
Evaluate– Realistically evaluate your current level of alcohol consumption. Do you drink daily? Weekly? Do you binge drink? How much alcohol do you consume before feeling ‘buzzed’? Drunk? Understanding your alcohol consumption and realistically putting your ‘drinks’ on the table helps you to create a starting point.
Plan – Start by making a goal of slowly reducing your alcohol intake each day or each week. Instead of buying a 24 pack of beer or 3 bottles of wine, limit the number you purchase. This can help you as you will not have a surplus of alcohol in your home. It’s easier to have ‘just one more’ when there is more in the fridge, so limit the temptation by simply reducing how much you purchase.
Use a moderator – Support is a critical component for anyone in recovery. Find someone you trust who can help to moderate the amount of alcohol you drink or keep a running tally on a notepad on your fridge. Physically marking your alcohol intake can be one way to help you become more aware of your consumption and limit yourself by one or two drinks per week. Keep a journal or diary for each drink you have on a regular basis. Every day reflect on the previous day’s alcoholic drink count.
Stay hydrated – Alcohol and the detox process both introduce dehydration. It is important that you drink enough water and electrolytes during this period to ensure that you are fully hydrated. Sports drinks or other beverages which contain sodium and electrolytes should be used in conjunction with water to avoid additional symptoms associated with dehydration.
Take your social life into consideration – For many individuals, alcohol is a social byproduct and something that is not regularly monitored in social situations. Offer to be the designated driver or have a friend or loved one ‘remind you’ you can only have so many drinks while out to avoid over-consuming.
Slow and Steady – Like starting a new workout plan or diet, alcohol tapering requires commitment and patience. You may not feel as though you are making progress, especially in the beginning. Take each day one day at a time and remember that you are making the effort to reduce your alcohol intake through a slower process.
Be kind to yourself – As with most processes, there is potential for setbacks to occur. If this happens, remind yourself of the reasons you have decided to taper your alcohol intake. Revisit your plan and look for the areas or triggers which lead you off your path. Forgive yourself for making the mistake and find the motivation to move forward again on your plan.
It is important to know that the alcohol tapering process will take longer and be more painstaking than a medically supervised detox. This is a process which can be done, particularly when combined with programs designed to help individuals recover and stay clean from substance abuse, such as Alcoholics Anonymous.
If you are unable to taper alcohol successfully, you should seek the professional care of a licensed practitioner for assistance with a medically supervised detox. These programs are available and can provide you with a safely monitored rapid detox. They can also provide you with follow-up options to helping you maintain your sobriety. Making the decision to reduce or stop your alcohol dependence is an important one. Be sure to research your options and choose the one which will provide the best long-term benefits for you.