Ways to Cut Down on Drinking Alcohol

Here are some strategies for cutting down on alcohol consumption that have proven helpful.

Set goals.

Decide how many days a week you want to drink and how many drinks you’ll have on those days. For men, the recommended limit in the U.S. is no more than four drinks on any day and 14 per week; and for women, no more than three drinks on any day and 7 per week, although many countries have higher recommended limits.

Count and measure.

A standard alcoholic drink is:

Measure drinks at home. Away from home, it can be hard to keep track, especially with mixed drinks. At times you may be getting more alcohol than you think. With wine, you may need to ask the host or server not to “top off” a partially filled glass.

Keep track.

Keep track of how much you drink. Find a way that works for you, such as a 3x5” card in your wallet, check marks on a kitchen calendar, or notes in a mobile phone notepad or personal digital assistant. Making note of each drink before you drink it may help you slow down when needed.

Pace and space.

Pace your drinking. Sip slowly and have no more than one standard drink per hour. Have “drink spacers” by making every other drink a non-alcoholic one, such as water, soda, or juice.

Include food.

Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Have some food so the alcohol will be absorbed into your system more slowly.

Prepare to say “no.”

You’re likely to be offered a drink at times when you don’t want one. Have a polite, convincing “no, thanks” ready. The faster you can say no to these offers, the less likely you are to give in. If you hesitate, it allows you time to think of excuses to go along.

Saying "no" gets easier the more you do it. Practice refusing drinks politely. Say something clever.

I don't need any more hair on my chest

I'm performing neurosurgery in the morning

It sloshes too much when I jog

No thank you

You can "lose" unwanted drinks that are given to you. For example, set them down and later walk away.

You can drink non-alcoholic drinks that look like alcoholic ones. For example, tomato juice, lemonade, iced tea, water with ice cubes, club soda with orange juice, tonic water with a twist or wedge of lime, and either orange juice or 7-Up with grenadine.

Avoid “triggers.”

Identify what triggers your urge to drink. If certain people or places make you drink even when you don’t want to, try to avoid them. Stay away from people who give you a hard time about not drinking as much as they do. If certain activities, times of day, or feelings trigger the urge, plan something else to do instead of drinking. If drinking at home is a problem, keep little or no alcohol there.

Plan to handle urges.

When you cannot avoid a trigger and an urge hits, consider these options:

Find alternatives.

If drinking has occupied a lot of your time, then fill free time by developing new
activities, hobbies, and relationships or renewing old ones. If you have counted
on alcohol to be more comfortable in social situations, manage moods, or cope
with problems, then seek other ways to deal with those areas of your life.

Your plan for change

I want to drink no more than ___ drink(s) on any day and
no more than ___ drink(s) per week.

I will start on this date:

My most important reasons to make these changes are:

The people who can help me are (names and how they can help):

Signs of success:
I will know my plan is working when:

Possible roadblocks:
Some things that might interfere and how i’ll handle them:

Drinking tracker and analyzer cards

Below are two sample forms you can cut out or photocopy and keep with you. The “4-week tracker” is a simple calendar form. If you mark down each drink before you have it, this can help you slow down. The “drinking analyzer” can help you examine the causes and consequences of your drinking pattern. Try one form, or try both to see which is more helpful.

Drinking tracker and analyzer cards

Source: National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Change can be hard, so it helps to have concrete reminders of why and how you’ve decided to do it. Some standard options include carrying a change plan in your wallet or posting sticky notes at home. If you have a computer or mobile phone, consider these high-tech ideas:

Don't give up!

If you don't reach your goal the first time you try, don't get discouraged. Try again. Remember, get support from people who care about you and want to help. Don't give up!


Note: This website is informational only. It makes no suggestions or recommendations about alcohol, drinking, health or any other matter and none should be inferred.


  • Adapted from National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and Your Health. Bethesda, MD: National Institute of Health (NIH). NIH publication #10-3770. Revised edition, 2010, a publication is in the public domain.

Filed Under: Abuse

This website is informational only. It makes no suggestions or recommendations about any subject.
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