Cutting down & getting help

Many people cut down on, or stop, drinking alcohol as they get older.

But some people continue to drink heavily or drink more alcohol than they used to, sometimes at harmful levels. Reasons include:

  • habits of drinking developed over a lifetime
  • coping with loneliness, isolation, bereavement, relationship problems, anxiety, depression, insomnia, regrets or change
  • loss of a partner, routine, status, friends, ability, memory, respect or social life
  • more opportunities for drinking and socialising, such as more free time or changes in living circumstances and finances
  • relief from boredom, trauma or pain.

If this is you, work out the effect that alcohol is having on you by cutting down for a while. Think about changes you’ve noticed. Check out what you’ve noticed about yourself with other people close to you.

Changing your drinking habits can be hard but it is never too late. Here are some ideas that could help:

  • Set yourself a limit and stick to it.
  • Drink alcohol only with food (food helps the body to deal with alcohol).
  • Alternate between non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks.
  • Try having a warm drink, rather than an alcoholic one, to help you sleep.
  • Ask your family/whānau and friends to support you. Spending time with people you enjoy can help.

Where to get help

Talk to your doctor or another health professional if you’re having trouble stopping or cutting back.

Your doctor may refer you to an alcohol treatment service or to another health or social service that can help you. Some treatment services cater just for older people.

You can also call the Alcohol Drug Helpline for free on 0800 787 797 (or call the Māori line – 0800 787 798 or Pasifika line – 0800 787 799), visit their website, or free txt 8681.

You can get information and self-help material, confidential advice and a referral to a local alcohol treatment service.