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Can You Taper Off Alcohol?

Severe alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous. If you have been drinking heavily for a long time, quitting abruptly entails risk of seizure or death. Even more moderate withdrawal can include high blood pressure and erratic or pounding heartbeat, which can be dangerous if you have a pre-existing heart condition. That’s why experts typically recommend detoxing from heavy prolonged alcohol use in a facility where you can get medical care. Tapering is a common tactic for quitting opioids and benzodiazepines, so you might wonder whether you can taper off alcohol as well.  

It is possible to taper off alcohol. It basically requires drinking just enough to prevent DTs and then gradually reducing that amount. The question is whether you can actually pull it off. The major challenge of alcohol addiction is that it’s a slippery slope. One drink leads to another and another. The more you drink, the less you self-control you have. This is why AA orthodoxy insists that alcoholics cannot ever drink, even moderately. In practice, holding yourself accountable may be too difficult for a taper to be effective. If you are currently in active alcohol addiction, you could try to taper, but be honest with yourself if it doesn’t work. You may have to get help to detox.

Detox facilities can help you detox safely. If you have been drinking for a while, you are probably dehydrated and have some malnutrition. These can make you feel worse than you need to while detoxing. When you are admitted to clinical detox, you normally get IV fluids with vitamins to help you rehydrate and begin to correct nutritional deficiencies.

Detox facilities don’t usually taper alcohol, but they will medicate you for DTs. This typically involves a mild benzodiazepine like Valium, or diazepam, to prop up your GABA levels and reduce the risk of seizure. If you do have other medical conditions–heart, liver, and stomach problems are common with alcohol addiction–then a good facility can help you manage those conditions too, as well as any mental health issue you might have.

If you can reduce your alcohol intake, you absolutely should. Unfortunately, one of the main features of addiction is wanting to stop but being unable to. Alcohol, in particular can snowball, particularly if you tell yourself you are drinking for health reasons. It may be true that drinking a little can prevent DTs, but the addicted mind will use any excuse to drink more. If you can taper on your own, that’s great, but if you can’t, hold yourself accountable and detox at a clinic.

If you or someone you love is struggling with alcohol addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox safely and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-828-1050 or email us at to learn more.