Stopping drinking if you're not physically dependent

Many drinkers don't score as physically dependent, but may nevertheless experience:

  • Strong cravings to drink - especially in certain situations, certain moods, or certain times of day
  • 'Rebound' symptoms like insomnia, agitation, irritability and anxiety
  • Some transient withdrawal symptoms like sweating and mild tremor after stopping drinking, but which will subside uneventfully without recourse to more alcohol.

What to do

The good news is that you don't need a medicated detoxification regimen when you stop drinking.

If you find some of the symptoms you get too difficult to manage, there may be some value in a short course of medication (either a detox drug like Chlordiazepoxide, or a sleeping tablet like Zopiclone). This can help you through the worst and also acts as a useful watershed between your current drinking and your non-drinking future. Consult your doctor or a specialist like me if you think this is the case.

Apart from the way you stop drinking, though - the rest of the advice in this guide still applies.

Stopping without medication

The worst thing you can do is to have what I call a half-arsed attempt at stopping. If you're casual and ill-prepared about it, or not fully committed, you're much more likely to fail. And every time you fail you naturally feel less optimistic about ever succeeding in the future. That's why you should aim to do it properly, do it once.

It's a good idea to plan a date when you'll stop. Tell other people if you can: being accountable to others, and getting their support, is hugely helpful. Try to clear any practical difficulties to do with work and home life for a few days or a week. Be prepared to tolerate feeling uncomfortable. Have some things to do that will distract you. Prepare yourself for cravings and know what to do about them.

After a few days you should start to notice feeling much better, and notice that your cravings are becoming less intense and less frequent.