What to Expect When Tapering Off Alcohol

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Tapering off Alcohol

Even when alcohol manages to gain a grip over every single part of your life, it can still be hard to embrace the idea of going sober. There are many reasons why a person hesitates to get sober and healthy, and one of the biggies is the dread of quitting alcohol. Some, however, can attempt tapering off alcohol slowly over time.

If you do not qualify for tapering off alcohol this way, a medical detox program puts you in safe hands. You can be assured that every stage of the detox and withdrawal process will be closely monitored. With the support and medical interventions the detox team provides, you will be guided safely into recovery.

Is it Time to Get Sober?

Maybe the negative consequences of your drinking problem are piling up. Maybe your spouse has issued an ultimatum. Maybe you are in legal trouble and are mandated by the court to get treatment for the disease of alcoholism. Whatever the reason, getting sober is the first step toward repairing your life and restoring your health.

Here are some of the classic signs of alcohol abuse and addiction. If you recognize yourself when reading through this list, it is time to seek the help you deserve.

Have you:

  • Had times when you ended up drinking more or longer than you intended?
  • More than once wanted to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to, but couldn’t?
  • Spent a lot of time drinking? Or being sick or getting over the after effects?
  • Experienced craving – the strong need, or urge, to drink?
  • Found that drinking – or being sick from drinking – often interfered with taking care of your home or family? Or caused job troubles? Or school problems?
  • Continued to drink even though it was causing trouble with your family or friends?
  • Given up or cut back on activities that were important to you or gave you pleasure, so you could drink?
  • More than once gotten into situations while or after drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt? Such as driving, swimming, using machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or having unsafe sex?
  • Continued to drink even though it was making you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health problem? Or after having had a memory blackout?
  • Had to drink much more than you once did to get the effect you want? Or found that your usual number of drinks had much less effect than before?
  • Found that when the effects of alcohol were wearing off, you had withdrawal symptoms

How Does Alcohol Use Disorder Develop?

Many factors can play a role in the development of alcohol dependency.  The more risk factors that are present at a young age, the more likely the individual will become an alcoholic. 

There are several ways alcohol use disorder (AUD) may develop. Someone may have a history of trauma, neglect, or abuse. They may have suffered the loss of a loved one and are struggling to overcome the grief. They may have a mental health disorder. In fact, according to the NIAAA, someone with AUD is 3.6 times more likely to also suffer from a mood disorder.

Alcoholism is a chronic disease that affects the brain. Ongoing heavy drinking basically trains the brain, through its reward system, to want and need alcohol. The initial dopamine rush you experience sends a message to the brain that this is pleasurable. The brain imprints this response and records it in memory.

As tolerance to alcohol increases, so does the rate of consumption. This only escalates the alterations in the brain’s pathways that are then wired to need the substance. The result is physical dependence and/or psychological addiction to alcohol.  

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There are risk factors linked with alcohol dependency. These are the factors that increase the likelihood that a person may be more prone to becoming an alcoholic. This includes:

  • Genetics. Family history of alcoholism may be due to a genetic link and/or ongoing exposure to drinking within families. 
    • Mental health conditions. Alcohol may be misused as a way to numb the adverse symptoms of depression or anxiety.
    • Drinking at an early age. The younger a person is when he or she begins drinking, the higher the chance of developing an alcohol use disorder later. 
  • Chronic stress. Someone in a highly stressful job, like a first responder, doctor, nurse, sales, or attorney may drink to relieve stress. 

Tapering Off Alcohol Gradually

When you decide to get sober, there are two ways to approach withdrawal. You can quit cold turkey under the guidance of a trained medical detox team, or you can slowly reduce intake. Not everyone is a candidate for tapering off alcohol over time. This option is only appropriate for someone who has an emerging drinking problem. If you have an alcohol problem of a long duration, you should undergo a monitored medical detox.

Candidates for tapering might be:

  • Those who feel their drinking is starting to get out of hand.
  • Those who just wish to stop drinking in order to improve overall health.

If you are a candidate for tapering, you can simply cut back a few drinks a week at will until you no longer drink at all. If you experience withdrawals, you may have an AUD and should suspend the tapering and enroll in a detox program.

What to Expect in Alcohol Detox and Withdrawal

If you can taper off alcohol slowly, you are likely to have mild withdrawal symptoms if any. This is because you have not yet developed an entrenched AUD. Someone with AUD who cannot taper off alcohol will need to enroll in a detox program to complete withdrawal safely.

Withdrawal symptoms range from mild to severe and may include:

  • Sweating
  • Shaking
  • Fever
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Agitation
  • Mental confusion
  • Insomnia
  • Seizures
  • Hallucinations

If you are ready to stop drinking, meet first with an addiction specialist who can guide you toward the proper method of detox.

Annandale Behavioral Health

California Detox Provides an Alcohol Tapering Schedule

Annandale Behavioral Health is a comprehensive addiction recovery program that can guide you safely through alcohol detox and withdrawal. Tapering off alcohol slowly can work for some, but not all who wish to stop drinking. Call us today for guidance at (855) 778-8668