How to Start Drinking Less

Ready to drink less, but don’t know where to start?

Find What Works

Small changes can make a big difference in reducing your problems related to your drinking. Whatever strategies you choose, give them a chance. If one approach doesn’t work, try something else.

Here's to (forgotten) unforgettable nights with friends.

Adults of legal drinking age can choose not to drink or to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women. For those who drink alcohol and want to cut back on your drinking, these four strategies can help: 

  • Set limits. Decide how many days a week you plan to drink and how many drinks you plan to have. For instance, you might decide to only drink on a Friday night or Saturday night and have one drink. Schedule alcohol-free days every week.
  • Count your drinks. Use an app on your mobile device to help. Understanding how much alcohol counts as a “standard” drink may also help.
  • Manage your “triggers.” If certain people, places, or activities tempt you to drink more than you planned, you can avoid those triggers. For example, instead of a happy hour event with co-workers, suggest catching up at lunch instead. You may also want to remove certain alcohol products from your home.
  • Find support. Ask for support from a friend, family member, healthcare provider, or someone else who will support your choice to drink less.

Note: Not drinking at all may be the best option for some people, including people who are pregnant or might be pregnant, those taking certain drugs or medications, or people who are recovering from an alcohol use disorder or cannot control their alcohol intake.

Remember “The How”

Change can be hard, so it helps to have concrete reminders of why the change is important to you and how you’ve decided to do it.

  • Make a change plan and print or save it to review later.
  • Set up the alerts on your devices to remind you at times of the day you need it.
  • Set your phone background to remind you why you want to drink less.
  • Post sticky notes around your home with motivational messages.
  • Let your friends and family members know about your change plan and ask for their support.

Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink can improve your short- and long-term health. Even small changes can make a big difference.

Please consult your healthcare provider if you or someone you know needs help with a drinking problem. Other resources include SAMHSA’s Substance Abuse Treatment Facility LocatorNIAAA’s Alcohol Treatment Navigator, and the National Treatment Referral Routing Service available at 1-800-662-HELP. These resources can help you find treatment programs in your community and someone to speak with about an alcohol problem.