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how can cutting back alcohol (and other drugs) help me?

24 May 2018
Reducing how much you drink or take can brighten your moods and clear your mind. Find out how.

A lot of people drink or take drugs – but sometimes they get in the way of us living a happy, meaningful life. Even if the amount you’re drinking doesn’t feel that bad, you might be are surprised by how much clearer your head is when you cut back.

Here are some things to think about if you’re starting to wonder if you might be using too much, or too often – and why taking a break from drugs like alcohol could make a big difference to your headspace.


How much is too much?

There’s no magic amount. If alcohol or other drugs are making it harder you to live your life the way you want to, then it might be time to make a change.

Different substances affect different people in different ways. For example, some people find that even one drink has an effect on their mood that they don’t like. How often you take alcohol or other drugs, why you do it and what you take also alters the effects they can have on your mental and physical health.

It also matters how old you are. If you’re a teenager, drinking can have a big effect the way your brain develops, and there’s more and more evidence that says weed does the same thing. But even if you’re in your mid-twenties, it doesn’t mean your brain has stopped growing. It will keep changing your whole life, and that means drugs like alcohol can still have a big impact.


What happens when you start cutting back?

Cutting back on alcohol and other drugs can improve your mood, your health, your sleep, your focus at school or work and your relationships.

Prof Yvonne Bonomo is a psychologist who works with young people. They often tell her how cutting back on alcohol and other drugs has helped them. “It could be something simple like, ‘I have a clearer head,’ or ‘I've got more energy,’ or ‘I just feel happier.’ Definitely a common thing is that giving it a break is a good way see the impact it's having, but also get you feeling better so that you do feel like you can address things in your life that you want to address.”

What can I do?

If you want to find what effects alcohol or other drugs are having on your mental health, try cutting back or taking a break for a month or two. If you feel better – awesome! And if it’s harder at first than you expected, that’s all the more reason to really give it a crack.

Keep track of any changes you notice so it’s easier to see the impact your experiment is having.

It’s also important to get support. Explain your situation to friends, or maybe an older person you trust. If your mood doesn’t improve, there could be something else going on.