Sometimes a person is not ready to completely stop drinking. This can be difficult for a loved one, however, there are still ways to help. This is when you can think of ways to decrease the harm they can do to themselves. This is called “Harm Reduction”. 

However, it is important to screen for withdrawal symptoms before trying harm reduction strategies. Withdrawal from alcohol can be life threatening. Risk factors for cutting down too fast from drinking include a history of withdrawal seizures, shakes, vomiting, sweating, hallucinations, previous need for detox or hospitalizations for liver issues (this is not an exhaustive list). If one has experienced any of these symptoms, then a medical evaluation of withdrawal should be done prior to cutting down. In this case, doctors can recommend medications to make the withdrawal period safer.

Here are strategies you can use to reduce the harm done to a person, or to help create healthier drinking habits for your loved one. 

  1. Only buy how much you want to drink.
  • If you have less alcohol on hand, it reduces the chances that you will drink too much at one time and helps control your cravings. 
  1. Choose some “drink free” days
  • Pick a few days in the week (or one) where you choose to not drink. Tell someone this plan to help you be accountable (i.e. make plans with someone that night).
  1. Decrease the strength of alcohol you drink. 
  • Try reducing the strength of the alcohol you drink by rotating through low-alcohol drinks for example, beers or pop (ex: ginger ale). 
  • This can also include things limiting the number of drinks, only buy the amount of alcohol you want to drink, or finding days where you don’t drink

*The Content on this website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. It is intended for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.