Alcohol Tapering How to Taper Off Alcohol Safely
Whether you’re a daily imbiber, heavy drinker, or frequent binge drinker, you’re likely to experience withdrawal symptoms when you quit. Unfortunately, there’s little to no evidence that tapering off reduces the effects of alcohol withdrawal, some of which can be severe or even life-threatening. Quitting with proper medical supervision may be more important than whether you stop gradually or all at once. The alcohol detox phase can involve withdrawal symptoms ranging from mild intensity to life-threatening. Oftentimes, the longevity and severity of your alcohol use disorder (AUD) will play a role in the withdrawal symptoms you experience.
Not always, but typically, the level of dependency on alcohol will correlate to the severity of symptoms. When that person cuts out alcohol, there is a period when their brain hasn’t yet received the message and still overproduces the stimulating chemicals. With how to taper off alcohol alcohol out of the equation, though, these chemicals cause withdrawal symptoms. However, even the best-designed tapers can put you at risk for alcohol withdrawal syndrome. For this reason, you should never start an alcohol taper before clearing with your doctor.
Who Can Benefit From Tapering Their Alcohol Intake
Alcohol is a depressant that your body begins to rely on over the course of months and years of drinking. Your brain eventually stops producing certain chemicals that it receives from alcohol, becoming dependent on the drug. That’s why when you quit drinking, it takes time for your body to adjust.
- Some of the early withdrawal symptoms include headaches, anxiety, shaking, nausea and irritability.
- But that advice changes if you’re living with alcohol use disorder.
This might be a pretty safe way to taper, as long as you’re not decreasing by over 20-30% per step. I’ve heard of some people doing 10% a week and having success that way. I once went from averaging 25 a day to 10 the first day and five the second day. The first night I barely slept because of auditory hallucinations and the second night I had tunnel vision and felt like a stroke victim.
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If untreated or inadequately treated, withdrawal can progress to generalized tonic-clonic seizures, delirium tremens, and death. Two commonly used tools to assess withdrawal symptoms are the Clinical Institute Withdrawal Assessment for Alcohol Scale, Revised, and the Short Alcohol Withdrawal Scale. Patients with mild to moderate withdrawal symptoms without additional risk factors for developing severe or complicated withdrawal should be treated as outpatients when possible. Ambulatory withdrawal treatment should include supportive care and pharmacotherapy as appropriate.
Deciding to taper off alcohol is a slower process that requires planning, but it can decrease both the chase of experiencing severe withdrawal symptoms and relapse. Years of heavy drinking can significantly alter how the brain looks and works. Acamprosate, sold under the name Campral, is prescribed to help your brain begin to function normally again after you quit drinking. Research studies have also started to look into whether or not acamprosate helps reduce the symptoms of PAWS including insomnia, anxiety and restlessness.
MODERATE SYMPTOMS (CIWA-AR SCORE OF 10 TO 18 OR SAWS SCORE GREATER THAN
Often, people with alcohol use disorder find that other people in their lives spot their addiction long before they do. Or maybe it’s a pregnancy that made you realize it’s time to stop drinking. Or maybe you’re just looking to improve your health, wake up hangover-free and give your liver (and your heart) a break. You don’t have to mention anything about your drinking if you don’t want to, but make sure you’re in good shape. Remember, doctors are (usually) intelligent people who spent over a decade studying medicine to help people. Everything you say is confidential and you’re paying them to HELP you.
Note that in some states, doctors may commit individuals at risk of harming themselves to 72 hours of involuntary treatment for addiction. These states include, but are not limited to, California, Colorado, Delaware, DC, Florida, Maine, Mass, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia, and Washington. My first recommendation is to seek professional help at an inpatient rehab facility, a dedicated detox center, or, in severe cases, the emergency room. During the 12- to 24-hour time frame after the last drink, most people will begin to have noticeable symptoms. These may still be mild, or the existing symptoms might increase in severity.