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To Cut Down or to Quit ...

If you're considering changing your drinking, you'll need to decide whether to cut down or quit. It's a good idea to discuss different options with a health care professional, a friend, or someone else you trust. Please note, when someone who has been drinking heavily for a prolonged period of time suddenly stops drinking, the body can go into a painful or even potentially life-threatening process of withdrawal. Symptoms can include nausea, rapid heart rate, seizures, or other problems. Seek medical help to plan a safe recovery. Doctors can prescribe medications to address these symptoms and make the process safer and less distressing. Quitting is strongly advised if you:

  • Have tried cutting down but cannot stay within the limits you set
  • Have had alcohol use disorder (AUD) or now have any symptoms
  • Have a physical or mental health condition that is caused or being worsened by drinking
  • Are taking a medication1 that interacts with alcohol
  • Are or might be pregnant

If none of the conditions above apply to you, then talk with your doctor to determine whether you should cut down or quit based on factors such as:

  • A family history of alcohol problems
  • Your age
  • A history of drinking-related injuries
  • Symptoms such as a sleep, pain, or anxiety disorder and sexual dysfunction

If you choose to cut down, see the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and seek advice from a health care professional if needed.

1 Mixing alcohol with certain medications can cause nausea, headaches, drowsiness, fainting, a loss of coordination, internal bleeding, heart problems, and difficulties in breathing. Alcohol can also make a medication less effective. For more information, see Harmful Interactions: Mixing Alcohol with Medicines.

Don't Wait for a Crisis or to "Hit Bottom."

When someone is drinking too much, making a change earlier is likely to be more successful and less destructive to individuals and their families.

Order our free print publication, available in English and Spanish

Download or order the free 20-page booklet, “Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol & Your Health”.

Rethinking Drinking English booklet

Disponible en Español

Descargue o ordene copias gratis del folleto de 20 páginas ‘Piénselo Antes de Beber: El Alcohol y su Salud’.

Rethinking Drinking Spanish booklet

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