Whether you’re aiming to drink less or to quit altogether, here are some tips and tools that can help you cut back on alcohol.
Know that you don’t have to make changes alone. There is a range of help and support available.
The less alcohol you drink, the lower your risk of harm.
The Australian Alcohol Guidelines recommend you have:
Children and young people under 18 years of age should not drink any alcohol. When pregnant, planning a pregnancy you should also not drink any alcohol. If you are breastfeeding, it is safest not to drink any alcohol.
A standard drink may be less than you think.
The number of standard drinks in a serve of alcohol depends on the alcohol volume (strength) and the size of the serve. A standard drink contains 10 grams of pure alcohol.
One standard drink is contained in a small 100ml glass of red wine, a can or bottle (375ml) of mid-strength beer, or a shot or nip (30ml) of spirits.
Knowing what is meant by a standard drink is important so that, if you’re drinking alcohol, you can stay within the recommended Australian Alcohol Guidelines.
Keeping track of how many standard drinks you have will also help if you want to reduce or stop drinking.
You can see how many standard drinks are in a packaged bottle or can of alcohol by checking the product label. Every alcohol product in Australia is required to be labelled with the number of standard drinks that it contains.
You can also use an online standard drink calculator to measure the number of standard drinks in different sized serves of alcohol.
Here are two handy standard drink calculators:
If you drink alcohol, it can be helpful to review your intake to understand whether you could benefit from cutting back or giving up.
The Australian Alcohol Guidelines advise to have no more than ten standard drinks in a week, and no more than four standard drinks in a day. (See Australian Alcohol Guidelines for more information).
Cutting back or giving up on alcohol is especially important if drinking is impacting your daily activities, relationships, health, or wellbeing, or is putting you or others at risk.
Some signs you could benefit from reducing your drinking or giving up alcohol include:
You can complete an online questionnaire for initial guidance on whether your alcohol intake is putting you at risk. Turning Point have a helpful alcohol self-assessment tool.
In a 2019 study, people who stopped drinking alcohol for one month reported the following benefits:
By cutting back on alcohol you can:
It can be helpful to set a goal and make a plan when you’re thinking about reducing the amount you drink. Having a plan will help you stay on track and measure the benefits of cutting back.
Your plan might be to have more alcohol-free days or to have less alcohol when you drink. To help with your plan, think about:
Sharing your goals with close family members and friends can help you achieve them — by increasing your commitment to achieving the goal and securing their support to help you keep it.
If you are in a situation where you or others are drinking, here are some strategies that can help you reduce the amount of alcohol you drink.
Committing to having alcohol-free days each week can be a great way to reduce the amount you drink.
Having alcohol-free days can be a useful circuit breaker if you need to reset habits and reduce how often you drink.
Alcohol-free days can also help support healthy daily habits that don’t involve alcohol, such as exercise or eating well.
A free app from Hello Sunday Morning, Daybreak offers self-directed activities to help you change your drinking habits, whether you want to cut back or quit drinking completely. ‘Daybreakers’ receive support from like-minded community members who can help each other achieve their alcohol change goals. One-on-one coaching is also available. Daybreak is free for Australian residents and is confidential, anonymous and secure.
A free app containing tools like goal setting and a drinking diary to help you cut down your drinking, including an interactive drink pouring tool helping you make sense of standard drinks. Confidential, personalised feedback is provided about your alcohol use, based on risk factors in your family and medical history. The app can also record and monitor how much you spend on alcohol and how many kilojoules or calories the alcohol you drink contains. It compares your drinking with other users of the app, and with Australia’s national alcohol guidelines.
SWIPE is a novel “brain-training” app that uses a form of cognitive training known as Approach Bias Modification (ABM) to help users reduce their alcohol consumption. ABM works by semi-subconsciously training your brain to automatically avoid alcohol cues, and automatically approach positive cues. Simply upload images of the drinks you want to avoid and the activities you want to start doing more of, and you’re ready to go! A published peer-reviewed monash research study showed that after 4-weeks of SWIPE app users reported significant reductions in alcohol craving, drinking days and weekly consumption of standard drinks.
We all need help and support from time-to-time. If you need support in making a change around alcohol, have a look at our contact list for further advice and assistance.
If you have been drinking heavily for a long time, it could be dangerous to reduce or quit alcohol on your own without medical advice or additional support.
Your doctor can help by advising on withdrawal planning, prescribing medication, or referring you to withdrawal and counselling services.
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