Lockdown Home Drinking: 5. What to do if you struggle to cut down

16 April 2020 Posted by

Higher Risk drinking is scored at 16 or above on the AUDIT checklist in the Drinksmeter app, but an even higher score of over 20 could indicate some degree of alcohol dependence. It’s possible to become dependent on alcohol without realising. This would make reducing drinking more difficult, and needs to be done very carefully.

Depending on the level of dependence, someone reducing their drinking may start to experience withdrawal symptoms. To keep the process as safe as possible, services that help people with this process recommend reducing slowly, starting with keeping a diary to record what you normally drink. This can be done with the help of the Drinksmeter app, but don’t be afraid to ask for help or advice too.

At this lockdown moment, when getting out to see and talk to someone about your drinking is impossible, the Drinksmeter is a perfect self-monitoring tool. For most people it’s all that’s needed, but if you find you need to talk to someone for advice, the right contact details are within the app, based on the region where you live.

In Cornwall, the alcohol support service is provided by ‘We Are With You’, who you may have heard of before as ‘Addaction Cornwall.’ Their contact details are found in the app, and their advice can also be found on their website.

They normally recommend getting professional support before trying to cut down your drinking, but these lockdown conditions aren’t normal. They advise cutting down slowly, over a few weeks, rather than just stopping suddenly. They recommend keeping a drinking diary for a week, to find out exactly how much you drink each day.

Again, the Drinksmeter will help you do this.

They also advise starting by reducing by 10% for a few days. At this stage, if you start to have any withdrawal symptoms, it means you’re cutting down too fast. Withdrawal symptoms could be sweating, headaches, confusion, sickness, blurred vision, lack of sleep, or imagining seeing or hearing things. At their most severe, withdrawal symptoms can lead to fits, which are dangerous. This is why a very gradual process is the safest approach.

Right now, we all need to do everything we can to avoid giving the Ambulance service and the NHS more work. So take it steady.

If you start to experience any withdrawal symptoms, even mild ones, slow down how much you are reducing what you drink. Keep drinking at your most recent safe level for another week, then start cutting down again. Consider cutting down by 5% instead of 10% each week.

They also give some other tips for this stage of the process

  • Ask a loved one for help. They could help you measure your drinks, record your intake or look after your alcohol for you.
  • Having someone going through this with you makes it both easier and more safe.
  • Gradually switch to a lower-strength drink. For example, replace a can of super-strength lager with a standard-strength can.
  • Add water or a mixer to your drinks.
  • Consider alternating, so that you drink one non-alcoholic drink for every alcoholic drink you have.
  • Try to eat healthily: avoid sugar, and try to eat plenty of brown rice and wholemeal bread. These are good for your vitamin B12 (thiamine) levels.
  • Take a vitamin B12 (thiamine) supplement. Ideally you should have 100mg of thiamine, three times a day. You can buy it from health stores online if you don’t already have it.
  • Keep hydrated with plenty of non-alcoholic drinks – but avoid coffee and energy drinks as these can cause sleep problems.

It may be best to keep reducing gradually all the way to zero, but at the point that you have reduced to a lower risk level and decide it’s safe to stop drinking altogether, make sure that someone knows you are about to do this, because you may still need support in an emergency.

Ask the people you live with to be ready to call an ambulance if you:

  • Have a fit or a seizure;
  • Become confused;
  • Develop double vision;
  • Become unsteady on your feet, or
  • Experience hallucinations (seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there).

These symptoms of alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous.

In addition, don’t stop drinking entirely if you have previously experienced had any of those symptoms around drinking or stopping drinking. If any of this describes your experience, please feel free to call ‘We Are With You Cornwall’ (Addaction) on 0333 2000 325.

Again, at this lockdown moment, when getting out to see and talk to someone about your drinking is impossible, the Drinksmeter is a perfect self-monitoring tool. For most people it’s all that’s needed, but if you find you need to talk to someone for advice, the right contact details are within the app, based on the region where you live.

If you have any comments, questions, problems or feedback, please email us at daat@cornwall.gov.uk

 

 

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