Is Alcohol Addictive?

Why is Alcohol Addictive?

Alcohol (ethyl alcohol) is a simple chemical that can cause significant changes in the complex functions of the human brain and body. Because it causes these changes, alcohol is a highly addictive substance. 

Drinking alcohol causes certain chemicals (dopamine and endorphins) to be released in the brain. These chemicals produce pleasurable feelings and act as natural painkillers. The pleasurable sensations are why once people start drinking, they often want to carry on.

Alcohol can compromise impulse control and decision-making, which can lead to alcohol misuse and dependence.1 Many people also consume alcohol despite the negative consequences, increasing the risk for addiction. 

How Does the Body Become Dependent on Alcohol? 

During consistent use of an addictive substance, a person’s brain and body chemistry can change. The pleasurable sensations caused by drug use can make the user crave the substance and feel that they need to use it regularly. This feeling of needing to consume a substance is called dependency, which can quickly develop into addiction.

Addiction is a disease that is characterized by compulsive substance use despite harmful consequences. A person who has an addiction has a compulsion to perform a behavior that they know is harmful. They also feel unable to stop themselves from performing it.

Over time, heavy drinking can make the body dependent on alcohol. If someone who is addicted to alcohol attempts to stop suddenly, they may experience uncomfortable and dangerous withdrawal symptoms, and can even go into shock and die.2

How Does Alcoholism Affect the Brain?

Alcohol negatively impacts the brain areas that control balance, memory, speech, and judgment, resulting in a higher likelihood of injuries and other adverse outcomes. Alcoholism also affects the brain’s “reward center” and produces pleasurable sensations (such as anxiety reduction) when consumed.

Long-term, heavy drinking causes alterations in brain neurons (such as reductions in size) and permanently damages brain processes and functions.

A developing brain is particularly vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. Misuse of alcohol during adolescence and early adulthood can alter the brain's development, resulting in long-lasting changes in brain structure and function.3

8 Reasons Why Alcohol is Very Addictive

Here are some of the main reasons why alcohol is highly addictive:

1. Physiological Changes

Alcohol causes the brain’s chemistry to change, which makes it addictive. 

Alcohol suppresses the central nervous system (CNS) and slows down brain function. When this happens, the brain increases the activity of neurotransmitters, which stimulate nerve activity and heighten arousal. 

As these changes occur, people tend to require increasingly more significant amounts of alcohol to become intoxicated. As a result, they often increase the amount they drink.

Over time, these changes to the brain create a vicious cycle of dependence that keeps the person hooked on alcohol.

2. Genetics 

Some people have a predisposition to alcoholism due to genetic factors. Specifically, some people’s brains release more pleasure chemicals in response to alcohol, making them more susceptible to physical dependency.

3. Social Pressure

Alcohol consumption is usually a social activity. People drink because their friends, coworkers, and family are drinking. 

Alcohol consumption is prevalent around the world. In 2019, 70% percent of U.S. adults 18 and older reported that they drank in the past year.4

In one study, a third of adult drinkers admitted drinking more than they intended because others encouraged them. Similarly, two-fifths of adult drinkers felt too much pressure to drink when socializing with work colleagues.5

4. Withdrawal Symptoms

Many people are addicted to alcohol because they don’t want to face the withdrawal symptoms of drinking cessation.

When an alcohol-addicted person suddenly stops drinking, they will likely begin to experience intense cravings for alcohol as well as many other distressing physical withdrawal symptoms, like:

To avoid these symptoms, an alcohol-addicted person may begin drinking frequently or nonstop.

5. Alcohol-Positive Advertising

Alcohol manufacturers bombard the public with advertisements in video, digital, and print. They show drinking as a socially acceptable, fun, and relaxing pastime. 

From 1971 to 2011, alcohol advertising in the United States increased by more than 400%.

6. Availability of and Proximity to Alcohol

Alcohol is legal in the United States, and is therefore more accessible than other drugs. Alcohol can be found in homes and at family gatherings, barbecues, restaurants, nightclubs, movie theaters, and resorts, among others. 

7. Positive associations with alcohol

Alcohol is often linked to positive associations such as celebrations. It is often featured at events or used to celebrate (“toastings,” for example). Many people treat alcohol as a reward at the end of the day or after an achievement, which builds a positive association with alcohol.

8. Easing of mental health symptoms

There is a strong link between addiction and mental health disorders. People who have untreated depression, anxiety, or PTSD have a higher risk for alcoholism because they may self-medicate with the drug. Self-medicating with alcohol can make a person want to drink more and more, leading to alcohol addiction.

Who is More at Risk of Developing Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)?

Certain factors like age, family history, genetics, and others, can make a person more at risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD). The presence of any of the below factors can make a person more at risk of developing alcohol addiction.

Is Binge Drinking Considered Heavy Alcohol Use? 

Binge drinking is a type of alcohol consumption in which a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds 0.08 percent. For men, this means drinking more than 5 drinks in two hours. For women, this means drinking more than 4 drinks in two hours.

Not everyone who binges drinks has an AUD, but they are at higher risk for developing one.

Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

In the United States, 18 million adults have an alcohol use disorder (AUD). 

You may have an AUD if you have experienced two or more of the following in the past year:

  • Drinking more or for longer than planned
  • Being unable to cut down or stop drinking
  • Spending excessive time drinking or recovering from drinking
  • Feeling a strong need to drink
  • Drinking or being sick from drinking that interfered with life or responsibilities
  • Drinking despite it causing relationship problems
  • Giving up or cutting back on activities in favor of drinking
  • Getting into dangerous situations while or after drinking 
  • Drinking even though it caused health problems
  • Developing a tolerance to alcohol's effects
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms 7

Treatment Options for Alcohol Misuse & Addiction

Alcohol addiction can lead to several devastating consequences. Nearly 90,000 people die each year due to alcohol-related causes. Alcohol is the third leading preventable cause of death in the U.S.

People who are physically dependent on alcohol will need the support of a healthcare professional to stop drinking.

Treatment options for alcohol misuse and addiction include inpatient care, outpatient care, or detox programs. The right treatment option depends on each person's background and individual needs.

If you are struggling with alcohol use and addiction, see your health care provider for an evaluation. Your doctor can provide medical advice, make a treatment plan, and refer you to addiction treatment facilities.

CAGE Alcohol Abuse Questionnaire, Screening & Assessment

What is the CAGE Questionnaire?

CAGE is an acronym that refers to a series of questions that medical professionals may use to screen patients for alcohol misuse. The questionnaire may also be self-administered.

Dr. John Ewing developed the CAGE questionnaire in 1984 as a simple tool to identify alcohol dependence.9 

There are four questions in the CAGE questionnaire:9

  1. “Have you ever felt you should cut down on your drinking?”
  2. “Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?”
  3. “Have you ever felt bad or guilty about your drinking?”
  4. “Have you ever had a drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover (eye-opener)?”

You can access the CAGE questionnaire online here.

The CAGE questionnaire is similar to the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and the Fast Alcohol Screening Test (FAST). In fact, it’s one of several hundred screening measures out there.

Other types of tests include calculating the “mean corpuscular volume” of a patient’s red blood cells and determining their “liver transaminase levels” and “gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase level.”2

How Does the CAGE Assessment Screen for Alcohol Misuse?

The CAGE assessment is easy. The widely validated screening technique asks open-ended questions that dive into a person’s drinking habits and behaviors. 

It also delves into how someone feels about their own alcohol consumption, as well as how they feel about people’s opinions about it. All of these questions can give insights into whether or not a drinking problem is possible.

It is important to recognize that the CAGE questionnaire was designed and intended to be a method of screening for alcohol misuse. It is not a diagnostic instrument. It does not collect any information about the quantity of alcoholic beverages consumed, the frequency of alcohol consumption, or the pattern of drinking.5

What Questions Does CAGE Ask?

CAGE stands for cut, annoyed, guilty, and eye-opener:9

Note that healthcare professionals should not precede the CAGE questionnaire with any other questions regarding alcohol intake. Any inquiries about drinking quantity or frequency can significantly reduce the sensitivity of CAGE questions

Kicking off the conversation with the open-ended nature of these questions is key.6

However, after completion, the CAGE questionnaire may be followed up with more questions about alcohol usage and consumption rates.

How is the CAGE Screening Tool Scored?

The CAGE questionnaire scoring is simple.

Each question is given a 1 if the patient answers “yes” and a 0 if the patient answers “no.9 

The more “yes” responses (and, as such, the higher the score), the more likely it is that the patient has an alcohol problem. 

If the patient answers at least half of the questions with a “yes” to earn a total score of 2 or more, this is considered “clinically significant.”4

How Effective is the CAGE Questionnaire?

Unfortunately, the CAGE questionnaire is largely underused, and people with alcohol problems are regularly undiagnosed and untreated. For example, only 30 percent of primary care physicians report regularly screening their patients for substance use. And, of them, only about half (55 percent) report using the CAGE assessment.5 

However, the CAGE questionnaire is largely considered an effective assessment of alcohol misuse

CAGE measures for sensitivity and specificity. Sensitivity means that people with alcohol dependence will test positive for it. Specificity refers to the percentage of true negatives, which means that people who do not have an alcohol dependence will test negative.

CAGE shows 91 percent sensitivity for alcohol dependence and 87.5 percent for alcohol misuse. It also shows 87.8 percent specificity for alcohol dependence and 80.9 percent for alcohol misuse.1

Because the CAGE questionnaire is just four questions, it’s a quick and easy assessment. In fact, it’s one of the most efficient ways to detect excessive drinking and for identifying alcoholism.5

Answering the CAGE questionnaire can be a positive step in the right direction for people with alcohol problems if and when it’s used correctly.

What are the Limitations of the CAGE Assessment?

The CAGE assessment does have some limitations. For example, it does not take gender, race, and cultural differences into account when assessing consequences or perceptions of problem drinking.8

Also, the CAGE questionnaire does not distinguish between a person’s current drinking problems and past drinking problems. For example, asking someone if they have ever felt guilty about drinking does not specify when that was and whether or not they still do.3

Lastly, the CAGE questions do suffice in assessing the extent of the drinking problem, if one is detected.3

Similarly, the CAGE questionnaire is not a valid assessment of substance misuse. However, CAGE-AID is a variation of the CAGE questionnaire that substitutes “drink” with “drink or drugs” in each question.

How Many Glasses of Wine Will Get You Drunk?

What is the Alcohol Content in Wine?

The standard serving of wine is five ounces, which contains approximately 12 percent alcohol.1 However, as there are so many different types of wine, not all glasses are equal. If you prefer wine with higher alcohol by volume (ABV), your single serving should be smaller.

On the other hand, if you are drinking wine that is relatively low in alcohol, a more generous glass would equal one serving.

How Does the Body Metabolize Wine?

Once drunk, wine enters the stomach and small intestine, where small blood vessels transport it to the bloodstream. 

Approximately 20 percent of alcohol is absorbed through the stomach. Most of the remaining 80 percent is absorbed through the small intestine.2

Alcohol is metabolized by the liver. This is where enzymes break down the alcohol. Understanding the rate of metabolism is essential to understanding the effects of alcohol. Generally, the liver can process one ounce of liquor, or one standard drink, in one hour.

If you consume more alcohol than this, your body system becomes saturated. The extra alcohol will accumulate in the blood and body tissues until it can be metabolized. This is why binge drinking can lead to high blood alcohol concentrations that linger for hours.

How Many Glasses of Wine Will Get You Drunk?

For those used to drinking beer, drinking wine can make you very drunk if you do not monitor how much you are drinking. While you may drink several beers with relative ease, consuming large quantities of wine is not a good idea.

Unless you weigh 250 lbs or more, two glasses of wine in an hour will make you legally drunk.

Factors That Affect How Quickly You’ll Get Drunk From Wine 

The average person can drink two glasses of wine within an hour before they are considered legally drunk. 

However, the following factors will influence your alcohol tolerance:

What is Considered Moderate Wine Consumption?

Moderate drinking is defined by The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse & Alcoholism (NIAAA) as consuming up to four alcoholic drinks for men and three for women in a day and a maximum of 14 alcoholic beverages for men and seven drinks for women per week.3

When trying to moderate alcohol consumption over an evening or a week, it helps to know how much alcohol is in each beverage.

The NIAAA defines one drink as:

One standard drink in the United States contains around 14 grams of pure alcohol.

While consuming alcohol in moderation may have some benefits, it is essential to remember that too much can harm your overall health. It may even be life-threatening in the long run.

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to:

  • Depression and other mental health problems
  • Dementia
  • Alcoholic hepatitis
  • Anemia
  • Arrhythmias
  • Cirrhosis
  • Fatty liver
  • Gout
  • High blood pressure
  • Nerve damage
  • Seizures
  • Stroke
  • Chronic disease of the heart muscle, recognized as cardiomyopathy

Drinking alcohol has also been linked to cancers of the:

  • Breast
  • Colon
  • Rectum
  • Liver
  • Esophagus
  • Voicebox
  • Throat
  • Mouth

During pregnancy, moderate drinking increases the risk of pregnancy loss and a child having development and growth problems in the future. If you are worried about the amount of alcohol you drink, speak with your doctor about your concerns.

Cutting Back on Moderate Wine Consumption

To cut back on moderate wine consumption, try to make a plan before you start drinking. Set a limit on how much you are going to drink.4

It also helps to set a budget. Only bring a fixed amount of money to spend on alcohol. 

Let your friends and family know you are cutting down on alcohol and that it is important to you. You may receive support from them.

If you are struggling, take it a day at a time. Cut back a little on alcohol each day. That way, every day you reduce consumption is a success.

Consider switching to smaller drink sizes, too. Buy bottled beer instead of pints or a small glass of wine instead of a big one. 

You can also opt for lower-strength drinks. Swap strong wines for options with a lower strength ABV percentage. You can easily find this information on the bottle.

Staying hydrated is critical, too. Drink a glass of water before drinking alcohol and switch alcoholic drinks with water or other non-alcoholic beverages.

Be sure to take breaks, too. Have several drink-free days weekly.

Why is it Essential to Know Your Alcohol Limit?

Drinking too much alcohol can lead to long-term effects on health. It is essential to set limits for yourself when drinking and keep an eye on how many alcoholic beverages you have. It is also vital not to binge drink.

The more you drink, the more challenging it is to stop drinking.

Do You Have a Drinking Problem? (Signs of Alcohol Misuse)

You could be misusing alcohol if:5

Treatment Options for Alcohol Misuse & Addiction

There are various treatment methods available for alcohol misuse and addiction, thanks to significant improvements in the field over the past 60 years.6 

However, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment method. What works for one person may not be suitable for another. Understanding the different treatment options can be an essential first step in the process.

Behavioral Treatments

Behavioral treatments are designed to change drinking behavior through counseling. Health professionals lead behavioral treatments.

Medications

There are three medications currently approved in the United States to help individuals stop or reduce drinking alcohol and prevent relapse. A primary care physician or other health professional prescribes these medications. They may be used alone or in combination with counseling.

Mutual-Support Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and similar 12-step programs offer peer support for people quitting or reducing their drinking. Combined with treatment from other health professionals, mutual support groups can provide a valuable added layer of support.

As mutual-support groups are anonymous, it is challenging for researchers to determine their success in comparison to treatments led by health professionals.

For anyone considering treatment for alcohol use disorder, speaking with a primary care physician is the essential first step. They can be an excellent source for treatment referrals and medications.

A primary care physician can also:

How Many Years of Drinking Before Liver Damage?

How Much Alcohol Does it Take to Damage Your Liver?

The liver converts nutrients, vitamins, and medications into substances our bodies can use. It also creates proteins, enzymes, and hormones to fight off infections. 

Another primary function of the liver is to break down and filter harmful substances in the blood, manufacture bile for digestion, and store glycogen for energy. For example, it processes over 90 percent of the alcohol you consume. The rest leaves your body via urine, sweat, and breathing.

It takes around one hour for the body to process one alcoholic drink. This time frame increases with each drink. The higher an individual’s blood alcohol content is, the longer it takes to process alcohol. 

The liver can only process a specific amount of alcohol at a time. When someone drinks too much, the alcohol left unprocessed by the liver travels through the bloodstream. The alcohol in the blood begins to affect the heart and brain, which is how individuals become intoxicated.

Chronic alcohol use leads to the destruction of liver cells. This causes scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), alcoholic hepatitis, and cellular mutation that may result in liver cancer. These conditions usually develop from fatty liver to alcoholic hepatitis to cirrhosis.

However, excessive drinkers may develop alcoholic cirrhosis without first developing hepatitis. 

A safe amount of alcohol to drink depends on an individual’s body weight, size, and gender. Women absorb more alcohol from each beverage than males, so they are at greater risk of liver damage.

Drinking two to three alcoholic drinks daily can harm a person’s liver. Binge drinking or consuming four or more drinks in a row can also lead to liver damage.

Can Moderate Alcohol Intake Cause Liver Problems?

When an individual drinks alcohol, the liver is responsible for filtering the alcohol from the blood. Moderate alcohol consumption typically does not affect a normally functioning liver or result in alcohol-related liver disease (ARLD)

Moderate drinking is typically considered one drink per day for women and two per day for men. One alcoholic beverage includes:

Early Signs of Liver Damage From Alcohol

Your liver is responsible for breaking down potentially toxic substances, including alcohol. When you drink alcohol, different enzymes in your liver break it down to remove it from the body. When you consume more than your liver can properly process, alcohol and its byproducts can hurt your liver.

This typically takes the form of extra fat in your liver, but it can lead to inflammation and the accumulation of scar tissue in time.

The early stages of liver damage from alcohol typically have no symptoms. If you have early stages of liver damage from alcohol, you may not even realize it.

If symptoms of early liver damage are present, they may include:

  • Swelling of the liver, which may lead to discomfort in the upper right side of the abdomen
  • Fatigue
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Late Signs of Liver Damage From Alcohol

Once liver damage from alcohol progresses, its symptoms become easier to recognize.

The more noticeable signs of late-stage liver disease include:

Once these symptoms are noticeable, the condition has developed to an advanced stage. Visiting a doctor immediately is crucial.

Can the Liver Repair Itself From Alcohol Damage?

The liver is very resilient and can regenerate itself. Each time your liver filters alcohol, some of the liver cells die. While the liver can create new cells, prolonged alcohol misuse over many years can reduce its regenerating capabilities.1

This can lead to severe and permanent damage to the liver.

Is Alcohol-Induced Liver Damage Treatable?

Successful treatment for alcohol-induced liver damage usually depends on whether a person is willing to quit drinking and change their lifestyle to improve their liver health.

The best treatment for alcohol-induced liver damage is quitting drinking. This is recognized as abstinence, which can be crucial depending on what stage the condition is at.

If you have alcoholic fatty liver disease, the damage may be reversed if you quit drinking for at least two weeks. After this point, it is typically safe to begin drinking again in moderation. 

If you have a more severe alcohol-related liver disease such as alcoholic hepatitis or cirrhosis, lifelong abstinence is suggested. This is because quitting drinking is the only way to stop your liver damage from worsening and potentially preventing you from dying of liver disease.

Stopping drinking is often challenging. An estimated 70 percent of people with alcohol-related liver damage have a problem with excessive alcohol consumption.2 

However, if you have alcohol-related cirrhosis or alcoholic hepatitis and do not quit drinking, no medical or surgical treatment can protect you from liver failure.

When to See a Doctor + Treatment Options

If you drink heavily, speak with your doctor so they can check if your liver is damaged. 

Alcohol-related liver damage does not typically cause any symptoms until the liver has been severely damaged. This means that ARLD is often detected during tests for other conditions or at a stage of advanced liver damage.2

Psychological Therapy

Once you have quit drinking, you may need additional treatment to ensure you do not start drinking again. The initial treatment offered is usually psychological therapy.

Psychological therapy typically involves meeting a therapist to discuss your thoughts and feelings and how they affect your behavior and wellbeing. 

If psychological therapy alone is not effective in preventing relapses, you may also require medicine to help you abstain from alcohol, such as:

Peer Led Groups

Many people with an alcohol use disorder find it helpful to attend peer led groups to help them stop drinking. Alcoholics Anonymous is one of the most famous, but many other support groups can help. 

Medication

The use of medicine to directly treat alcohol-related liver damage is controversial. Many experts say there is limited evidence for its effectiveness.

For those with severe alcoholic hepatitis, treatment at the hospital may be required. Treatment using corticosteroids or pentoxifylline medication may be used to lessen liver inflammation in some people with this condition. Nutritional support is also an essential part of treatment in such cases.

Other medications that have been used to treat liver damage include:

However, there is a lack of solid evidence that these medications help. They are no longer used for severe alcoholic hepatitis.

Liver Transplants

In the most severe cases of ARLD, the liver loses its capabilities to function. This leads to liver failure. In these cases, a liver transplant is the only way to treat irreversible liver failure.

A liver transplant may be considered if:

  • You develop progressive liver failure, despite not consuming alcohol
  • You are otherwise well enough to survive the operation
  • You commit to not consuming alcohol for the rest of your life

Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol

Why is Alcohol Harmful? 

Alcohol is a psychoactive and toxic substance with dependence-producing properties.2 Today, alcoholic drinks are a routine part of many people’s social lives. 

In this context, it is easy to ignore or overlook the health and social damage caused or contributed by drinking alcohol.

What Happens to Your Body if You Drink Alcohol Everyday?

Drinking alcohol every day can lead to severe consequences for a person’s mental and physical health. This is both in the short- and long-term. 

Many of the effects of drinking daily can be reversed with early intervention. However, they may become harder to treat with time. It is essential to recognize an alcohol use disorder and treat it as early as possible to avoid damage to the brain and body.

What are the Effects of Long-Term, Heavy Drinking?

In time, long-term, heavy drinking can result in the development of chronic diseases and other severe problems, including: 1

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Liver disease
  • Digestive issues
  • Various cancers
  • Weakening of the immune system
  • Learning and memory issues, including dementia and poor school performance
  • Mental health issues, including depression and anxiety
  • Social problems, including family problems, job-related issues, and unemployment
  • Alcohol use disorder (or alcohol dependence)

What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking?

The benefits of quitting drinking vary from person to person, depending on how much alcohol they previously drank.

Someone who previously drank alcohol minimally may experience an overall improved sense of control over their health. 

Others who previously drank excessively may notice other physiologic effects, including enhanced mental clarity, better sleep, weight loss, and experiencing the ‘detox’ sensation.

Those who suddenly stop or reduce drinking after chronic or prolonged alcohol use may also experience the physical and psychological symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. Depending on their alcohol use disorder severity, these withdrawal symptoms can range from mild to severe.

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:11 

  • Anxiety or nervousness 
  • Depression 
  • Fatigue 
  • Irritability
  • Shakiness
  • Mood swings
  • Nightmares
  • Unclear thinking
  • Sweating
  • Clammy skin
  • Enlarged (dilated) pupils
  • Headache 
  • Sleeping difficulties
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Nausea and vomiting 
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Tremor of the hands or other body parts
  • Agitation
  • Fever 
  • Hallucinations
  • Seizures
  • Confusion

While these withdrawal symptoms can persist for weeks, those in recovery will start to notice the improved effects of giving up alcohol in time.

7 Physical & Mental Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol 

Here are seven physical and mental benefits of not drinking alcohol:

1. Better-Looking Skin

Heavy alcohol consumption can harm your skin. Drinking too much may lead to the following skin issues:

When you stop drinking alcohol, you eventually restore elasticity to the skin. Redness and yellowing of the complexion slowly disappear.5

2. Improved Sleep

Excessive alcohol use and poor sleep are closely linked. This is because alcohol affects your sleep-wake cycle, making it harder to fall asleep (and remain asleep). Alcohol also relaxes the muscles in the throat, making you more susceptible to sleep apnea and snoring.

You may expect some sleep issues in early alcohol recovery, but the longer you abstain from alcohol, the better improvements there are in your sleep quality.6

3. Healthier Weight

Alcohol derails your metabolism and stops your body from receiving the essential nutrients it requires. It is also filled with sugars and empty calories. Binge drinking can help you consume 600 calories or more in one night.

A large part of alcohol recovery is not just learning to quit drinking but discovering how to live a healthier lifestyle. This includes proper nutrition and exercise.

While everybody is different, achieving a healthy weight is a realistic goal for many people aiming to remain sober.

4. Better Mental Health

There is an increased rate of comorbidity between alcohol addiction and other mental illnesses.

These mental health disorders include:

In 2019, approximately 9.5 million U.S. adults experienced both a substance use disorder and a mental illness. But nearly 60 percent received no treatment at all.7

5. Improved Immunity

Alcohol negatively interferes with your immune system, stopping it from producing enough white blood cells to fight off germs and bacteria. This is why many heavy drinkers experience bouts of pneumonia and tuberculosis. 

When you stop drinking, you will also prevent many of the colds, flu, and other illnesses that you may have been unable to fight off due to chronic drinking in the past.8

6. Enhanced Nutrition

Drinking can rob your body of vital nutrients. Many people who indulge in excessive alcohol consumption tend to ‘drink’ their meals. This leads them to consume less than the amount of food required to provide sufficient protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals.

Alcohol can also interfere with the nutrition process. This can affect digestion, storage, utilization, and excretion of nutrients. Because of this, many heavy drinkers are malnourished.

As you quit drinking and begin working on a healthier way of life, your body will absorb nutrients better.

7. Lower Risk of Cancer

Alcohol is a recognized carcinogen. The more alcohol you drink, the greater your risk of developing some form of cancer.

These types of cancer include:

  • Breast cancer
  • Colon and rectal cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Laryngeal cancer

  • Liver cancer
  • Oral cancer
  • Throat cancer

How Long Before You Feel the Benefits of Not Drinking?

Alcohol withdrawal varies for everyone. There is no ‘normal’ way of experiencing it, and it can be challenging to predict a single person’s experience. No doctor will be able to determine how long it takes for the benefits to show.

Some people report positive effects after a week of no drinking. Others may feel it takes months to notice them.

Emotions, sleep, and general health patterns will take some time to level out.  

How Much Alcohol is OK to Drink?

Adults of legal drinking age can decide not to drink or to drink in moderation by reducing intake to two drinks or less in a day for men and one drink or less in a day for women.3

Drinking less is better than drinking more.

Signs You Should Quit Drinking Alcohol 

The following are signs you should quit drinking alcohol.4

In the last year, have you: 

Treatment Options for Alcohol Misuse & Addiction 

There are a variety of treatment methods available for alcohol misuse and addiction. But keep in mind that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It is essential to understand that what may work for one person may not suit someone else.

Understanding the different treatment options available can be an important first step.

Some common treatment options for alcohol addiction include:4

Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol: FAQs

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the benefits of not drinking alcohol:

Are you healthier if you don't drink alcohol?

Yes, you are healthier if you do not drink alcohol. Cutting out alcohol reduces your risk of getting cancer. It also has a big impact on your liver and lowers the chances of developing liver disease.

The less you drink, the less risk there is for long-term health problems.

What happens after 4 days of not drinking?

For many of those who experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, day four of not drinking brings relief from severe symptoms. However, for some people, day four is the beginning of their withdrawal experience.

Those who experience the most severe and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms do not begin to have them until day four or five. These withdrawal symptoms may include hallucinations and seizures.

What happens to your body after a week of not drinking?

Many people will experience improved sleep after a week of not drinking. However, it can take up to a month or longer for some.

What happens after 2 weeks of no alcohol?

After two weeks of no alcohol, you will continue to enjoy the health benefits of better sleep and hydration. Alcohol is an irritant to the stomach lining, so after two weeks, you will also notice a reduction in symptoms like reflux. This is where the stomach acid burns your throat.

After two weeks, you are also likely to begin losing weight after giving up alcohol’s empty calories. 

What happens if you stop drinking for 30 days?

After giving up alcohol for 30 days, you will experience improved mood, better sleep, increased energy, and better physical and mental performance. You’ll also lower your risk of serious health issues, save money, and possibly improve relationships with loved ones.

What happens to your body 3 months after quitting drinking?

Around three months without drinking is when your liver and cells throughout the body heal and experience significant change. Energy levels will rise and overall improved health begins.

Does it take 40 days for alcohol to leave your system?

No, it does not take 40 days for alcohol to leave your system. The body typically processes around one standard drink per hour. If you have five standard drinks, it will take five hours for your body to process the alcohol.

How long it takes for alcohol to leave your system depends on how much you have drunk.

Does quitting alcohol clear skin?

You can expect better skin after going sober for good. As your skin is significantly repaired from alcohol damage, it will have an overall healthier appearance and naturally radiant look.

Will my red face go away if I stop drinking?

Excessive alcohol consumption can trigger rosacea. This is a chronic redness in the skin because the blood vessels enlarge and produce more blood flow. When you stop drinking, this redness should resolve. 

Can You Drink Alcohol After a Tooth Extraction?

You should not drink alcohol after a wisdom teeth removal procedure because it can have adverse effects on healing time. 

After you get your wisdom tooth removed, a blood clot must develop in the extraction area until granulation tissue forms. This can take a week or longer.

If the blood is unable to clot, you could develop a dry socket. This is a painful condition that slows your recovery process. 

A dry socket may require additional follow-up visits with your doctor or dental professional. It can also leave you in extreme discomfort and pain spreading from your mouth and throughout your face. 

Drinking alcohol following wisdom teeth removal can also lead to other adverse effects, such as leading to a weakened immune system. 

What Is Wisdom Tooth Extraction?

Wisdom teeth extraction is a procedure that removes one or more wisdom teeth. These are the four permanent adult teeth in the back corners of your mouth (on the top and bottom).1

If a wisdom tooth does not have room to grow, you are likely to experience pain, infection, or other dental issues. In this case, you will need to have the tooth removed.

A dentist or oral surgeon may perform a wisdom tooth extraction. Some dentists and surgeons recommend extraction to avoid potential future issues even if impacted teeth are not causing any current issues.

Wisdom teeth are the last permanent teeth to erupt in the mouth. These teeth typically appear between the ages of 17 and 25. Some people never develop wisdom teeth.

For others, wisdom teeth usually erupt, like their other molars did, causing no problems. Many individuals develop impacted wisdom teeth. These are teeth that do not have enough room to erupt in the mouth or grow normally.

Impacted teeth may erupt partially or not at all.

Dangers of Drinking Alcohol After a Tooth Extraction

There are various dangers and risks of drinking alcohol following tooth extraction surgery:

Adverse Effects of Anesthesia

Following wisdom tooth extraction, your body will still be under anaesthetic effect. Drinking alcohol can increase dizziness. Because of this, dentists recommend personal supervision for a minimum of 24 hours following the surgical appointment.

Dry Socket

Drinking alcohol after surgery can cause a dry socket. For a quick and healthy recovery following a tooth extraction, your body must develop a blood clot at the extraction site. If the blood clot does not form or is dislodged, you may develop a dry socket.4

A dry socket is a painful condition that slows the healing process. Drinking alcoholic beverages like beer or wine following a tooth extraction can disturb the blood clot. This can increase the chances of dry socket development, leading to slower recovery and other complications.

Bad Combination with Pain Medication

Pain and discomfort are expected following tooth removal. Your dentist may prescribe some pain medicine for comfort. 

Alcohol and pain relievers do not combine well and can cause dizziness and liver damage. This is whether you use prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers.

Weakened Immune System

For regeneration of skin over the wound, your immune system must work at its best. 

However, alcohol consumption can damage your immune system and weaken it. As a result, drinking alcohol may delay the healing process and make the wound more susceptible to infections.

How Soon After Surgery Can You Drink Alcohol? 

It is best to avoid drinking alcohol post wisdom teeth removal surgery for as long as your dentist or oral surgeon recommends. The safest bet is to wait around seven to ten days while the wound heals.

At the least, you should not drink alcohol for 48 hours following any wisdom tooth removal procedures.

You should also consider any medicines you are taking for pain before drinking alcohol. Mixing pain relief medications with alcohol is dangerous and can cause negative effects. It is best to wait until you no longer need any pain relief medications before drinking alcohol.

What Other Drinks Should You Avoid After Wisdom Teeth Removal?

It is best to avoid acidic drinks post wisdom tooth removal surgery. Consuming drinks like lemonade or orange juice rich in citric acid after oral surgery is like placing lemon juice directly on an open wound.

Acidic drinks will badly irritate the extracted site. This may lead to infection. Avoid drinking acidic drinks for at least a week.

What Can You Drink After Wisdom Teeth Removal?

Staying hydrated is essential during the healing process, so be sure to drink plenty of water.

You can also drink various flavored drinks without a problem. 

For example, you can drink:

Many people enjoy drinking coffee. You can drink coffee following wisdom teeth removal. However, you should drink cold coffee for the first 24 hours post-surgery. You should wait at least 48 to drink hot coffee.

After oral surgery, the extracted site needs to be treated gently for the blood to clot. Consuming anything aside from cold drinks will disturb the area and delay the healing process.

Other Tips for a Smooth Recovery

As well as avoiding alcohol consumption, here are some post-op tips for a quick and easy recovery following wisdom tooth extraction. 

Self-Medicating With Alcohol

What Does Self-Medicating Mean?

Self-medicating is the wrongful use of drugs, alcohol, or any other substance in an attempt to manage the troubling symptoms of a mental health disorder or other illness. 

Although many people who self-medicate may have been diagnosed with a health condition like cancer, an injury, a mental illness, or chronic pain, a formal diagnosis is not required.

Signs & Symptoms of Self-Medication

It is not easy to tell when a person is self-medicating. This is because the behavior that would typically indicate something is wrong is socially acceptable in many cultures.  For example, prescription drugs are found in most bathroom closets, and even recreational drugs like cannabis are now legal.

Consequently, determining whether you (or someone else) are self-medicating requires careful examination of the motives for  (and consequences of) consuming a specific drug or engaging in a particular activity.

Some of the most common signs of self-medication include:

The “medication” is used as a coping mechanism

The person turns to drugs or alcohol whenever they're feeling stressed, anxious or depressed. It is usual for people to use substances to cope with unusually stressful events, such as losing a job or a loved one. 

However, if the habit is regular (i.e., the individual is regularly drinking to cope with stress, improve how they feel, or relieve boredom), they are likely self-medicating.

Self-medication worsens the situation

Self-medicated drugs are usually temporary solutions. Once their effects wear off, the person relying on them is likely to feel even worse. The habit will affect sleep patterns, energy levels, and immune response, leaving the user susceptible to illness. 

It also negatively impacts mood and emotional well-being, as the users trap themselves in a downward spiral of increased substance abuse.

Increasing self-administered medication doses to gain relief

Users will slowly increase their intake of "medication" as their tolerance grows. This trend will likely be accompanied by the health effects of consuming excessive amounts of the substance.

Social, financial, and psychological difficulties

The more the individual self-medicates, the more problems it will create in their personal and professional lives. 

For example, a person might start drinking to cope with stress, but increased alcohol use will lead to social, medical, and financial challenges.3 People around the self-medicating person will also start to express concern about their behavior.

Risk Factors for Self-Medication

Risk factors for self-medication include:

Depression

Depression is a mood disorder that is best described as prolonged feelings of loss, sadness, or anger. These feelings are strong enough to interfere with a person's daily routine. 

Depressed people will often resort to substances like alcohol in an attempt to cope with their condition.3 They consider alcohol's sedative effects to be an effective treatment for their persistent feelings of sadness.

Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar disorder is categorized into four categories: bipolar I, bipolar II, cyclothymic disorder, and bipolar disorder due to a medical or substance use disorder.

People with bipolar I disorder experience one or more manic episodes followed by pronounced depressive or hypomanic episodes (a psychological state characterized by euphoria and persistent lack of inhibition). 

People with bipolar II disorder have one or more depressive episodes followed by a hypomanic episode. It is not unusual for them to self-medicate with alcohol or drugs since these substances alleviate depressive and manic episodes.1

Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder in which people have abnormal perceptions of reality. It may result in delusions, hallucinations, and disordered behavior or thought patterns that affect daily functioning. 

People with schizophrenia engage in self-medication as a way to alleviate the feelings of depression or anxiety caused by living with such a severe mental illness.

Physical and Emotional Abuse

Studies show that between 25 and 75 percent of people who have experienced abuse or violent trauma self-medicate with alcohol.2 

Abuse generally leads to post-traumatic stress disorder, which in turn encourages destructive tendencies. Individuals who have survived traumatizing emotional, mental, and physical encounters may not seek professional help and resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as partying, drinking, or narcotics.

Why Do People Self-Medicate?

People may self-medicate for the following reasons:

Childhood Abuse

Childhood abuse subjects the brain to significant amounts of stress that hinder proper development. The psychological effects of sustained abuse cause neurological changes that eventually leave an individual vulnerable to substance use disorders like self-medication later in life.  

Studies have shown, for example, that traumatized children are more likely to be alcoholics, drug addicts, or have eating disorders.5 A lot of this hurt results from loneliness, relational isolation, and trauma, as already discussed. 

Psychological pain is not always visible, but it is an enduring and significant source of distress. Self-medicating helps such individuals deal with the pain.

Pre-existing Mental Health Issues

Self-medication rates tend to increase with the incidence of mental health problems like bipolar disorders, anxiety, depression, and many others. Self-medication helps people cope with the symptoms associated with their respective illnesses.

What Substances Do People Most Commonly Self-Medicate With?

The most common substances used to self-medicate include:

Psychostimulants

People with mental health illnesses may resort to psychostimulants like amphetamines for feelings of euphoria. Unfortunately, these substances are highly addictive and can be fatal when used for recreational purposes.

Alcohol

Alcohol can temporarily alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and depression when consumed in moderate amounts. It can make a person more social and sociable and make them feel that everything is fine. 

However, alcohol abuse leads to addiction, which eventually worsens the user's problem. Recovering from alcoholism can be a complex process. In some cases, it may last a lifetime.

Caffeine

Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and has antidepressant effects such as enhancing dopamine and serotonin levels. However, it can also heighten feelings of anxiety if consumed excessively.

Marijuana

People turn to marijuana as an effective remedy for problems like anxiety and generalized anxiety disorder. However, there isn’t enough scientific data to prove its efficacy.  When marijuana is used as self-medication, it may provide immediate relief from undesirable symptoms. 

However, this effect also reinforces its use, making a person dependent. There is also evidence that it may result in long-term memory loss and increase susceptibility to psychiatric disorders.

Opioids and opiates

Opioids and opiates interact with the human body's nerve cells to reduce the intensity of pain. They include drugs like fentanyl and heroin, along with prescription medications like codeine, hydrocodone, and morphine.

Food

Self-medicating with food, often referred to as binge eating or emotional eating, may limit stress in individuals who aren’t suffering from clinical depression. However, regularly using food in this manner can decrease self-esteem and amplify feelings of a lack of self-control. It also has a negative effect on physical health through unhealthy weight gain.

The Danger & Risks of Self-Medication

Some risks of self-medicating include:

Addiction

Self-medication can lead to addiction.6 When someone self-medicates with alcohol or any other depressant, it increases their tolerance. This means they need more and more of it to achieve the desired therapeutic effects. 

Long-term dependence on these substances can lead to or worsen depression, and cause breathing difficulties, irregular sleeping patterns, and sexual problems. It is not uncommon for users to develop anxiety, cravings, or panic whenever they are unable to obtain more of the substance.

Aggravated Medical Conditions

Self-medication may also mask the presence of a more serious medical condition.6 In some situations, the symptoms that might encourage people to self-medicate, like headaches or back pain, are signs of a more serious medical condition. 

In these cases, self-medicating may address the pain but not the root cause of the problem. It would enable a potentially life-threatening illness to become worse. 

Treatment Options for Self-Medication & Addiction

Addiction and self-medication generally arise from underlying or inadequately managed physical or mental health issues. Consequently, the most effective intervention for these people is a treatment plan that addresses both problems at the same time.4 

These programs are most effective when they are managed by mental health professionals who know how to properly diagnose and manage co-occurring disorders

Alcohol Intoxication

What is Alcohol Intoxication?

Alcohol intoxication describes the physical and mental effects of drinking too much alcohol. These effects include slurred speech, reduced coordination, impaired judgment, blurred vision, and drowsiness. The level of intoxication depends on how much alcohol has been consumed. 

Acute alcohol intoxication, also known as alcohol poisoning, is a more severe form of intoxication. Effects here can include reduced body temperature, impaired breathing, and loss of consciousness. Acute intoxication is life-threatening. 

Most people either have experienced alcohol poisoning or know someone who has. 85.6% of adults drink alcohol at some point in their lives.7

Alcohol poisoning does not always involve traditional alcoholic beverages. Many household products contain alcohol. Consumption of these products can be a sign of drug dependence or alcohol addiction. 

When we talk about alcoholic drinks, we are referring to ethyl alcohol or ethanol. Ethanol is made from fermenting grains or fruits, and is mixed with other ingredients to provide flavor. Therefore, alcohol itself is just a fraction of the beverage. For example, beer typically contains only 5% alcohol, while hard liquors contain around 40%. Pure alcohol is dangerous to drink and is not generally available to buy. 

Many of those suffering from addiction drink isopropyl alcohol or rubbing alcohol to become intoxicated. Other substances such as cooking extracts and mouthwash can contain ethyl alcohol, leading to ethanol intoxication.

What is Acute Alcohol Intoxication? 

Acute alcohol intoxication is a state of extreme impairment from drinking too much alcohol. Effects of acute intoxication include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, loss of control of bodily functions, and abdominal pain. 

In extreme cases, respiratory depression may occur, a life-threatening condition in which normal breathing is impaired.8 Other dangers include a higher risk for injury from violent altercations or trauma from accidents. 

A major cause of acute alcohol intoxication is binge drinking (drinking too many alcoholic beverages too quickly). According to the National Institutes of Health, 25.8% of Americans have engaged in binge drinking in the past.2  

What constitutes binge drinking depends on the sex of the drinker. For men, this is five or more standard drinks in two hours; for women, it is four or more. An example of a standard drink would be 12 fluid ounces of regular beer or 8-9 fluid ounces of malt liquor.

What Causes Alcohol Intoxication?

When people drink alcohol, it passes through the stomach and into the small intestine, and from there it passes into the bloodstream. This raises their blood alcohol concentration

Blood alcohol concentration, also known as blood alcohol content (BAC), determines the amount of alcohol in the bloodstream. In every U.S. state (besides Utah—which is .05%), the legal definition of alcohol intoxication is a BAC of 0.08% or above.8  

The amount of alcohol consumed is not the only factor in determining BAC - weight also plays a role. For example, a male weighing 160 lbs who consumes three standard drinks may have a BAC of 0.11%. Meanwhile, the BAC of a 140 lb man who drinks that many might be closer to .13%.2 And if there is a man and woman of the same weight, a man will tend to have a lower BAC, even if they drink the same amount.2

Whether the person has eaten recently also matters. You absorb alcohol faster when you drink on an empty stomach. This is because the stomach sphincter muscle remains closed for digestion, slowing the absorption of alcohol.

A person’s medical history - particularly whether he or she is taking medication, is another important factor influencing intoxication. Drinking while taking some over the counter medications such as Benadryl can lead to extreme drowsiness. 

Alcohol poisoning does not always involve traditional alcoholic drinks. Many household products contain alcohol. Consumption of these products can be a sign of drug dependence or alcohol addiction. Many of those suffering from addiction drink isopropyl or rubbing alcohol to become intoxicated. Other substances such as cooking extracts and mouthwash can contain ethyl alcohol, leading to ethanol intoxication.

What are the Symptoms of Alcohol Intoxication?

Signs and symptoms of alcohol intoxication include:

  • Slurred speech 
  • Reduced coordination or balance
  • Vomiting
  • Inability to stay awake
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Low body temperature
  • Impaired memory or judgment
  • Slow or irregular breathing

If you are concerned about someone with these signs and symptoms you should seek immediate medical attention.

The 7 Stages of Alcohol Intoxication 

  1. Sobriety, or subclinical intoxication (0.01 - 0.05 BAC) — At this stage, a person may or may not appear intoxicated.
  2. Euphoria (0.01 - 0.12% BAC) The person is more confident, sociable, and impulsive, and has a shorter attention span. This person may or may not be legally intoxicated at this point.
  3. Excitement (0.09 - 0.25% BAC) — An intoxicated person at this stage may show slowed reaction times, reduced memory, blurred vision, and a lack of coordination. He will almost certainly appear intoxicated.
  4. Confusion (0.18 - 0.30% BAC) — This person is severely intoxicated. Signs and symptoms here include extreme drowsiness, highly impaired speech, increased aggression, and blurry vision. Significant impairments to balance and reflexes may also occur. Intoxication is obvious and apparent.
  5. Stupor (0.25 - 0.49% BAC) — A person at this stage can barely move or stand, is prone to vomiting, and may slip in and out of consciousness. The chance of an alcohol overdose is very high here, and medical help should be sought immediately. Death can occur over a BAC of .40%. 
  6. Coma (0.35 - 0.50% BAC) This is close to a fatal dose. The intoxicated person has lost consciousness. The body’s ability to regulate breathing is compromised, with breathing slower and more shallow. The person’s heart rate has likely slowed, and body temperature drops. This is a medical emergency.
  7. Death (+.50% BAC) When a person drinks this much, the body’s autonomic nervous system (ANS) shuts down. The ANS is responsible for breathing, heartbeat, circulation, digestion, and other vital functions. 

When to See a Doctor

If you believe someone is suffering from alcohol poisoning, you should seek immediate medical attention. While you wait, make sure the intoxicated person remains upright and awake. They should also be given water if possible and kept warm. 

How is Alcohol Intoxication Diagnosed?

A doctor can diagnose intoxication by checking the patient’s blood alcohol concentration levels. Low blood sugar is another sign of possible alcohol poisoning. Peer-reviewed studies indicate that alcohol can create an exaggerated insulin response, lowering blood sugar.4 BAC and blood sugar levels can both be checked with a simple blood or urine test.

How is Alcohol Intoxication Treated? 

Emergency medical attention for alcohol poisoning typically begins with a physical examination and careful observation. Those at risk of respiratory depression may receive oxygen therapy. This involves having a breathing tube inserted to assist with normal breathing. 

An intravenous drip may be inserted to restore fluid, electrolyte, and blood sugar to normal levels. Finally, a catheter may be fitted until the patient regains control of bodily functions.

Possible Complications of Alcohol Intoxication

Alcohol poisoning can lead to a variety of serious complications, including:

  • Gastritis (inflammation of stomach lining)
  • Diabetes complications
  • Respiratory failure
  • Hypothermia (dangerously low body temperature)
  • Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
  • Diabetes complications
  • Brain damage 

What is the Outlook for Alcohol Intoxication?

After being treated and stabilized, patients should be carefully monitored as their vital functions return to normal. Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal are possible. 

Some signs and symptoms to watch for include decreased mood and appetite, memory problems, headache, and fatigue. Usually, full recovery takes only a couple days.

When is Alcohol Intoxication a Sign of Alcoholism?

Medical care professionals treating patients for alcohol poisoning should check for possible Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD). Those at risk of AUD: 

Another important sign of chronic alcohol abuse can occur during the detoxification process. An addicted person undergoing this process may exhibit serious withdrawal symptoms, such as seizures and delirium tremens. 

Diagnosis is based on interviews and questionnaires, not on lab tests. If this occurs, addiction treatment is required. 

Treatment Options for Alcohol Misuse & Addiction 

Alcohol addiction, left untreated, can have deadly consequences, including cancer, liver damage, and heart disease. Peer reviewed studies correlate drinking alcohol early in life to substance abuse involving other drugs, including marijuana and cocaine.11 

Over 95,000 Americans die each year from excessive alcohol consumption.Heavy alcohol use is a leading cause of death across all ages, accounting for 3.8% of all deaths worldwide.5 

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends a variety of approaches for addressing alcohol misuse and addiction. The FDA has approved a number of drugs to help people reduce heavy drinking and promote abstinence. These include Naltrexone, Acamprosate, Metadoxine, and Disulfiram.8, 9

Behavioral therapy and mutual support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous can offer long-term addiction support. These can be done in-person, but phone or video sessions are also possible. All these approaches can be used together to support a person’s addiction recovery journey.

Is Beer Bad For You?

Is Beer Bad For You?

Beer is an alcoholic drink made by brewing and fermenting cereal grains such as malted barley and flavored with hops. For years, beer has been a popular alcoholic beverage among people worldwide, particularly men.

Beer is one of the world’s celebrated drinks. This is because it is a versatile option for drinking at social occasions or events. However, for many beer drinkers, consumption is not limited to social events. People also drink it on normal days to wind down.  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), men are more likely than women to drink excessively. As of 2019, 7 percent of men reportedly had an alcohol use disorder compared to an estimated 4 percent of women. 

People have extensively argued whether a beer is good or bad for health. In line with this argument, this article discusses the meaning of moderate alcohol consumption, what is considered excessive drinking, and the downsides and upsides of drinking beer. 

The Downsides of Drinking Beer

Drinking beer, particularly heavy drinking or binge drinking, has harmful effects. Studies have shown that drinking alcohol might be associated with liver cirrhosis, dementia, and depression. 

Binge drinking means drinking excessively to the point that the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) increases to up to 0.08 percent. This corresponds to five or more drinks (females) or five or more drinks (males) within 2 hours. Heavy drinking means consuming more than four drinks daily or more than 14 in a week (for men) or consuming more than three drinks per day or more than seven drinks per week (for women).

The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

Here are some of the downsides of drinking beer:

Liver disease

Research has directly linked alcohol consumption to liver disease mortality. This means consuming drinks containing alcohol such as beer can predispose one to liver diseases such as cirrhosis. 

The severity of alcohol-induced liver disease typically depends on factors like the pattern, amount, and duration of alcohol consumption and other factors like nutrition and genetics. 

Cancer risk

If you drink beer excessively, you have a higher risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as mouth and throat cancers. Alcohol contains empty calories, which can cause weight gain; excessive weight gain causes an increased risk of cancer. Also, alcohol can cause an increase in estrogen and other hormones linked to breast cancer.

Mental health

Depression is a mental health disorder. Epidemiology shows that it affects an estimated 264 million people. Studies have suggested that heavy beer drinkers or binge drinkers have an increased risk of depression than non-drinkers and moderate drinkers. It can also predispose them to anxiety.

Weight gain

While moderate drinking doesn’t seem to be associated with being overweight or obesity, research has shown that heavy drinking or binge drinking can cause weight gain. Studies have associated obesity with other health complications, such as the increased risk of diabetes.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), other downsides of excessive beer consumption include:

7 Surprising Health Benefits of Beer

Scientists and physicians advise against excessive alcohol consumption due to its side effects. This has made it seem like nothing good comes from drinking beer. However, you’ll be surprised to learn that beer can benefit cardiovascular health and overall health. 

Beer contains polyphenols, amino acids, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals, which offer health benefits such as the reduced risk of heart disease, reduction in blood sugar level, and stronger bones. Research has reported a decrease in low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol with moderate alcohol consumption, causing a lower risk of cardiovascular diseases. 

Surprising health benefits of moderate beer consumption include:

  1. It might reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes
  2. It might raise HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) level
  3. Reduces LDL cholesterol level, which is a risk factor of high blood pressure
  4. Beneficial to heart health and might reduce the risk of heart attack
  5. Natural compounds from beer constituents exert antioxidant activity, protecting cells from free radicals
  6. Aids bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis
  7. It may lower the risk of dementia, which conditions like Alzheimer’s disease can cause

Most alcohol-related studies are observational studies that show correlation and not causation. Therefore, you can’t conclusively say that alcohol plays an essential role in reducing common diseases like heart disease. However, some strong evidence, such as an increase in HDL, points towards its benefit to heart health. The key is to focus on moderation, as excessive intake will harm your health.

Harvard Health Publishing

How Much Beer is Too Much?

Health experts advise that people drink beer in moderation. But how much beer is too much? 

Moderate drinking means consuming less than two drinks a day for women and less than three drinks a day for men. This means you are drinking too much beer if you have more than this number of drinks in a day. 

Also, you are consuming too much beer if you drink five or more drinks (for men) on a single occasion or four or more drinks (for women) on a single occasion. This is known as binge drinking.  

What is Moderate Alcohol Intake? What is Considered One Beer?

Moderate drinkers are alcohol consumers that drink moderate amounts of alcohol. But, how do you know if you are a moderate drinker or a heavy drinker? 

According to Harvard Health Publishing, moderate alcohol intake means one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. 

There are three categories of alcoholic drinks: beer, liquor, and wine. While beer is made from fermented cereals, wine is made from fermented grapes and fruits (e.g., red wine). Beer contains a smaller amount of alcohol than wine. Unlike beer and wine, which are brewed, liquor is distilled from plants and grains (e.g., vodka, rum, and gin). Liquor has the highest alcohol content of the three drinks. 

One beer is 12 ounces of regular beer, which is about 5 percent alcohol. This also represents one standard drink as it contains roughly 14 grams of pure alcohol. 

What is a ‘Beer Belly’?

You may have heard of the phrase ‘beer belly.’ But beer is not necessarily to blame for a large belly. People with beer bellies do not usually follow healthy diets or get enough exercise.

Too many calories of any type can lead to a beer belly. Yet consuming too much beer is often blamed as the reason for the abdominal pouch.

Liquid calories are easy to overconsume. You do not get a sense of fullness, and when drinking beer, the calories add up quickly.

If you want to avoid the beer belly, consider choosing a light beer with around 64 to 110 calories. Remember that alcohol makes you hungry and lowers your inhibitions, so you may eat more than you planned when drinking.

Do You Have a Drinking Problem? Symptoms of Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)

If you drink light beer, you are most likely not at risk of experiencing the side effects of alcohol consumption. People with drinking problems usually show symptoms of alcohol use disorders and might need healthcare. Symptoms of alcoholism or alcohol use disorders include:

Physical symptoms of AUD include:

  • Fever
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Profuse sweating
  • Loss of appetite and weight loss
  • Rapid heartbeat

Treatment Options for Alcohol Misuse & Addiction

Professional help is available for people suffering from alcohol misuse and addiction. Depending on the addiction case, a patient will receive either inpatient or outpatient treatment or both. 

It will help to check into an alcohol rehab center close to you. Your treatment might involve any of the following options:

30 Days Without Alcohol

Benefits of Cutting Out Alcohol for 30 Days

Reducing or quitting alcohol can improve your well-being in many ways. The benefits of cutting out alcohol for 30 days include:

Who Benefits From an Alcohol-Free Month?

Anyone can benefit from an alcohol-free month. There are no negatives of going alcohol-free for a month for most people, besides making some minor adjustments to your social life and exchanging your alcoholic beverage for water at happy hour.

However, if someone has an addiction, they should not suddenly go without alcohol. Someone with an alcohol addiction will need professional detox to guide them through withdrawal or face the consequences resulting from withdrawal symptoms.

What Happens During 30 Days Without Alcohol?

Better Sleep

Abstaining from alcohol will help you get a better night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed. 

Although 15 to 28 percent of people use alcohol to help them sleep, it reduces the quality and quantity of rest. Alcohol can disrupt the two most essential parts of our sleep: 

  1. Slow-wave sleep (deep sleep), which is the most physically vital part of sleep.
  2. REM sleep, which is the part of sleep that helps you learn and remember. 

Most light to moderate drinkers who reduce their alcohol intake or stop drinking altogether will see the quality of their sleep improve relatively quickly.

Less Bloating

People who give up alcohol are likely to experience the appearance of a slimmer figure as a result of less bloating caused by alcohol.

Alcohol causes bloating for a couple of reasons. Alcohol is an inflammatory substance that causes swelling in the body. This inflammation is worsened by the things often mixed with alcohol, such as sugary and carbonated liquids, resulting in gas, discomfort, and more bloating. Also, because alcohol is a diuretic, it causes the body to retain water, leading to more bloating.

Possible Weight Loss

People who give up alcohol, even temporarily, are likely to lose weight.

Alcohol contributes to weight gain by reducing the speed of the body’s metabolism. When the metabolism is slower, the body breaks down alcohol first, so fats and sugars burn off slower. Plus, alcohol also carries almost the same number of calories as pure fat, at seven per gram.

Drinking also lowers inhibitions and can make some people more prone to snacking. While sober, it’s easier to maintain a strict diet.

Lower Anxiety Levels

Going alcohol-free can help you improve your mental health. Although many people use alcohol to cope with stress and anxiety, evidence shows that alcohol is more likely to worsen anxiety. Going off alcohol can contribute to lower anxiety levels.

When our blood alcohol content increases, we become more emotionally unstable as we experience impairments to memory and comprehension. This emotional instability makes managing stress while intoxicated even more challenging than it already is when we are clear-headed.

Alcohol alters the chemistry of the brain and can make anxiety worse. Chronic alcohol use is also a contributing factor to developing panic disorder.

Increased Energy and Focus

Going booze-free can elevate your energy levels.  

Drinking depletes your supply of B vitamins (which are crucial for sustained energy). Like most nutrients, the B vitamins don't only have one purpose, so you may notice an impact on both your energy and focus with alcohol consumption.

Increased Hydration 

Alcohol is dehydrating, so going without alcohol will allow your body to absorb water better and help you stay better hydrated.

Alcohol is a diuretic that causes your body to remove fluids from your blood at a much quicker rate than other liquids.

Your body has a hormone called vasopressin that helps your body reabsorb water passed through the kidneys. When you drink alcohol, your body produces less vasopressin, which means less water is reabsorbed and it is expelled as urine. Since you’re not reabsorbing water as much as you usually would, you end up getting dehydrated.

No Hangovers

Abstaining from drinking means that you will no longer suffer from hangovers. Instead of nausea, headaches, or tiredness, you will feel more energized and productive.

Better Skin

Going without alcohol helps your skin recover from the dehydrating effects of the substance, which gives it an unhealthy color and texture. 

Some drinkers have also reported that curbing their drinking has cleared their eczema.

Other Health Benefits

Giving up drinking offers many positive health benefits and reduces the risk of adverse consequences associated with long-term alcohol consumption.

Giving up drinking lowers your risk of developing the following:

What Happens After 30 Days Without Alcohol?

During the first week of going alcohol-free, you may not notice much of a difference. It can take days before you feel back to normal after heavy drinking. Bouncing back from drinking includes ridding the body of alcohol, catching up on sleep, and cutting out other bad habits which may have coincided.

It usually takes at least two weeks of consistently not drinking to notice results, assuming all other factors stay the same.

You might start to notice some positive side effects after stopping drinking for just a few days, including less bloating and some slight weight loss due to the hefty calorific content of many alcoholic drinks.

Going without drinking will also help users understand their drinking habits better and build a healthier relationship with alcohol.

Benefits of “Dry January” 

“Dry January” is when many people voluntarily stop drinking alcohol for all of January. 

The goal of Dry January is to start the new year on a sober, clearer, more refreshed, and healthy note.

Dry January started in 2012 as an initiative by a British charity, to help people “ditch the hangover, reduce the waistline and save some serious money by giving up alcohol for 31 days.”

Millions of people now participate in the challenge.

The growing awareness comes as recent studies have found no evidence that light drinking might help keep people healthy. Drinking more than five drinks weekly on average can take years off a person’s life.

Approximately 82 percent of participants of Dry January felt a sense of achievement after successfully going a month alcohol-free.

When Someone Should Quit Drinking Permanently 

For some people, it may be safe to drink alcohol moderately with occasional breaks. 

On the other hand, some people should consider quitting drinking permanently rather than temporarily.

Quitting alcohol is strongly advised for people who:

  • Try cutting down but cannot stay within the limits they set
  • Have a medical condition that is caused or worsened by drinking
  • Are taking a medication that interacts with alcohol
  • Are or may become pregnant

Anyone who feels that they have an alcohol addiction should also consider quitting drinking. Common signs of alcohol addiction include the presence of any of these symptoms within the last year:

Another sign of alcohol addiction is experiencing withdrawal symptoms, which include:

  • Tremors (shakes)
  • An increase in blood pressure
  • Rapid breathing
  • Sweating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Nightmares or vivid dreams
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations 
  • Seizures 

If you experience even one of these withdrawal symptoms, you should contact a medical professional to help you safely detox from alcohol.

How to Safely Detox from Alcohol

Speak with a doctor first before you reduce or quit alcohol. 

A doctor can give you medical advice based on your health, create a withdrawal plan, and help you prepare for withdrawal symptoms.

The best way to safely detox from alcohol is to receive inpatient care at a licensed rehabilitation facility, where you can receive on-call medical care to support you as you go through alcohol withdrawal.