Alcohol is embedded in the lifestyles of nine types of problem drinkers that cost the NHS £2.7bn a year, according to research by the Department of Health.
It hopes its research into social and psychological characteristics will ensure it can improve campaigns to reduce current drinking levels. A trial information campaign has been launched in the northwest of England.
Public Health Minister Dawn Primarolo said: "This is a totally fresh approach to helping people understand the effects of their drinking habits and help them make changes for the better. This has never been attempted before with respect to alcohol on this scale.
"The pilot will help up to 4,000 drinkers cut down in the first year alone. Combined with work already under way with the Units campaign, we hope up to 36,000 people nationally will be drinking less this time next year."
The nine groups are:
"Destress drinkers" who use alcohol to calm down. They are mostly middle-class women and men.
"Conformist drinkers" who need structure. These are typically men aged 45-59 in clerical or manual jobs.
"Boredom drinkers". Alcohol helps them to feel comforted and secure.
"Depressed drinkers" of any age, gender or socioeconomic group.
"Rebonding drinkers need to keep in touch with people.
"Community drinkers" need to belong. They are usually lower middle class men and women.
"Hedonistic drinkers", often divorced with grown-up children who want to stand out from the crowd.
"Macho drinkers" who are mostly men of all ages who want to stand out from the crowd.
"Border dependants" who see the pub as home and drink fast and often.