How to drink less

Do you often go to the pub for just the one drink, but end up stumbling home at 2am plastered? These practical tips will help you stop turning a social drink into a session.

Glass green beer bottles

Don't remember emptying all those bottles?

Tips on how to drink less:

  • Know your limitsEver woken up in the morning thinking ‘HOW did I get that drunk?’ The answer is simple: you drank too much. Decide exactly how much you’re going to drink before the night begins.
  • Don’t mix drinksWe know, we know, it can be boring to keep drinking the same thing. Instead vary which mixer you use. Try switching between vodka cranberry and vodka lime and soda, for example.
  • Measure how much alcohol you’re putting in – as the night goes on, if you’re drinking at home the amount of spirits going into your drink will probably get bigger and bigger, so use a shot glass (or something the same size) to keep it consistent.
  • Eat before hand – Another bit of advice we’re pretty sure you’ve heard before. Choose high-protein and high-fat foods, like cheese and nuts to keep your blood alcohol content low.
  • Drink water or soft drinks – in between alcoholic ones.
  • Pace yourself – drink more slowly, try not to consume more than one drink an hour.
  • Don’t drink everyday – have days in between when you don’t drink. Especially avoid alcohol the day after a big night.

You can keep track of how much you’re drinking with this app for your phone. And you can work out how many units you’ve drunk with this widget:

Alcohol unit calculator

Go to NHS Choices homepage


How to say no to alcohol…

If you’re drinking at a friend’s house

The situation: You’ve been invited over for pre-drinks before you go out or someone’s having a house party. Everyone around you is knocking back alcohol like nobody’s business and there’s temptation everywhere – so how do you resist?

How to abstain: Come prepared with a bottle of fizzy drink or juice to drink instead, and don’t feel like you have to tell anyone there’s no alcohol in it. Or if you only want to drink a little, share a bottle of wine or pack of beers with some friends, rather than drinking it all yourself.

Avoid drinking games, they’re lethal. Or slyly drink coke while everyone else lays their secrets bare playing Never Have I Ever.

Don’t, whatever you do, drink that suspicious looking cocktail, unless you want to get absolutely rat-arsed.

If you’re going out clubbing

The situation: Your mate’s want a big night out; you don’t fancy getting trashed but know they’ll be annoyed if you don’t show up. How do you get out of getting drunk without offending your friends or making it a big deal?

How to abstain: Keep your dancing energy up with sugary drinks or snacks like bananas and nuts. This is the trick that 25-year-old Ellie uses: “If I’m going clubbing, I get a sugar boost from an energy drink, so I can keep up with the party animals,” she says. Mocktails and soft drinks, like lemonade, orange juice, iced tea and tonic water, will also work. Add a wedge of lime and ice cubes to make your drink look like it contains alcohol.

Take time over your drinks so that you can dodge out of rounds. If that fails, you can accidentally knock over the drink your friend ‘kindly’ buys for you or ‘lose’ it by putting it down somewhere on your way to the toilet.

If you’re at the work ‘do’

The situation: Your office has won an award, you need to win over a new client, someone is leaving, it’s been one hell of a week, or your boss just wants to feel popular. Free bars or someone else picking up the tab can make it even harder to refuse alcohol, or you may feel pressured to join in on rounds.

How to abstain: Conferences and events where complimentary drinks are on offer will usually have a non-alcoholic alternative, like orange juice. Choose that – at least once.

If you’re out having work drinks in a more informal or intimate group, try telling the truth. Tell people that you just don’t feel like drinking alcohol and firmly say “No” when they pile on the pressure for you to join them in a round of tequila slammers. If your willpower is weak you may find it hard at first, but after a while of going out and not drinking you will find it becomes easier to refuse drinks.

If you’re on a pub crawl

The situation: It’s the weekend and you and your mates are going out. You want to join in on the fun but you know the main emphasis will be on downing drinks and getting hammered. How can you avoid the rounds without looking like a cheapskate out to ruin their night?

How to abstain: Be sneaky. If telling the truth means your mates will still be fetching you booze and expecting you to keep up with them, tell a little white lie. Say you’re driving, ill and on antibiotics, and that you really can’t drink because you got trashed on Monday night and found yourself swinging from a lamppost naked, so don’t want to go there again. Embellish details as you see fit to make sure the story is convincing. The beauty of this method is that you can also scarper before the night gets particularly ugly, if you wish to.

If you’re meeting up one-to-one

The situation: You want to hang out with your best mate or date but you don’t want a boozy night.

How to abstain: If you’re not very good at saying no to a pint, why not find some alternative things to do for a night off? Instead of going to the pub, consider going out for dinner, for coffee or to the cinema.

“I take breaks from drinking because when I drink I tend to binge drink,” says Ben, 19. “It is also a lifestyle decision – generally the less I drink the more productive I am. I’m probably more inclined to meet friends for a coffee if I’m not drinking. I may go along for two soft drinks with someone who’s drinking, but I’ll rarely stick around for the silly stuff.”

Breaking out of the routine of regular boozing like this can be a great way to learn to take or leave drink in social situations. Find other ways to let off steam like swimming, running, dancing or even having sex, all of which can make you feel happier and healthier without involving alcohol.

Next Steps

  • Drinkaware offers advice and information on alcohol and your drinking habits.
  • Are you drinking too much? Drinkaware has a useful self assessment tool to help you discover if your drinking habits are healthy, or something to worry about.
  • Addaction helps people recover from drug and alcohol addictions.
  • Al-Anon provides support to anyone whose life has been affected by someone else's drinking.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


Updated on 29-Sep-2015