Safe alcohol withdrawal is an important part of starting a recovery process. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be dangerous. The use of an alcohol tapering schedule is the safest method of gradually discontinuing use. Abruptly stopping alcohol use after a long period of heavy use can cause severe health implications. Consultation with a medical professional or recovery coach is strongly recommended.

Creating a Schedule for You

The process of reducing alcohol consumption should begin with your baseline of use. The Harm reduction, Abstinence, and Moderation Support (HAMS) organization recommends a gradual taper to improve health outcomes. For example, if you consume less than 20 standard drinks per day, begin tapering your use by two drinks per day. The reduction of use by two drinks per day for this level of alcohol use is recommended to reduce the risk of severe detox symptoms. The degree of tapering entirely depends on one’s baseline of alcohol consumption. The added benefit of a tapering schedule is to reduce alcohol cravings as opposed to the riskier “cold turkey” method for people who drink heavily.

5 Tips for Creating a Tapering Plan

Developing a proactive plan for tapering alcohol is an important step in the process. The more aware you are of the potential risk factors and your individual needs during the process, the more likely you will be to succeed.

  • Tell Someone What You're Doing

    As you begin your tapering process, talk to someone you trust about your plan. Consulting with a medical professional is highly recommended. Consider also sharing your process with a friend or family member so that they can offer the support you will need.

  • Calculate a Healthy Tapering Plan

    If you have been drinking heavily, it is imperative that you reduce your alcohol consumption gradually to avoid severe detox symptoms which can result in major health concerns and in severe cases, death.

  • Try To Eat Well and Stay Hydrated

    The process of tapering and detox from alcohol can be exhausting and taxing on the body. Try to maintain a healthy diet and drink water to avoid dehydration during this time.

  • Reduce Excessive Activity Levels

    Your body needs time to adjust to the changes it will be experiencing. Respect your body’s need to heal and avoid any extreme activity levels beyond what you would normally do.

  • Sit With Your Feelings and Be Mindful About Replacement Addictions

    Behavioral changes are difficult to maintain. It can be tempting to throw oneself into an alternative behavior or addiction in order to distract from the difficulties of recovery. If you notice an urge to dive into something else, observe your feelings and consider talking to a counselor to help navigate the emotional impact of tapering your alcohol use.

How to Modify the Schedule Over Time

The guidelines for tapering are generalized; you may need to modify the tapering schedule if you are experiencing difficulties with the original plan. The risk of tapering too quickly is withdrawal symptoms, which can be dangerous. The risk of tapering too slowly is an increased likelihood of relapse. How quickly can you taper off alcohol? It mostly depends on your individual metabolism and withdrawal symptoms. The purpose of tapering is to avoid some of the riskier symptoms of detox. If one tapers too quickly, there is a strong possibility that detox symptoms will be severe. The length of time for alcohol tapering depends entirely on your baseline of use. Ask loved ones to pay attention to signs of alcohol relapse to help you stay on track with your recovery process.

After Care: What to Do After Detox?

Once your tapering schedule is complete, the work of maintenance begins. Continue to abstain from alcohol use and monitor cravings or urges to use. Don’t try to go through the recovery process alone, reach out for help and support. Local addiction recovery meetings and the support of family, friends, and others in recovery is crucial during this period of adjustment.

Alcohol abstinence can feel like a tall order early on in the recovery process, and you should not expect yourself to face it alone. The Recovery Village Palm Beach Florida at Baptist Health can offer additional support and help develop an individual plan for your recovery. Reach out to one of the supportive professionals and begin the healing process.

Medical Disclaimer: The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider.