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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.

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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.

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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:

  • Broken capillaries on your face and nose
  • Dehydration
  • Inflammation
  • Jaundice (with long-term alcohol use)
  • Reduced collagen levels, leading to loose, saggy skin
  • Psoriasis

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:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Schizophrenia

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: 

  • Experienced times when you ended up drinking more or longer than you intended? 
  • More than once decided to cut down or stop drinking, or tried to but could not? 
  • Spent a significant amount of time drinking alcohol? Or being sick or getting the hangover? 
  • Experienced cravings — a strong need, or desire, to drink? 
  • Discovered that drinking — or being sick from drinking — often interfered with looking after your home or family? Or caused job problems? Or school issues? 
  • Continued to drink alcohol even though it was causing issues with your family or friends? 
  • Stopped or cut back on activities that were important to you in order to drink? 
  • More than once gotten into circumstances while or following drinking that increased your chances of getting hurt (e.g., driving, swimming, using heavy machinery, walking in a dangerous area, or engaging in unsafe sex)? 
  • Continued to drink even though it made you feel depressed or anxious or adding to another health issue? Or following a memory blackout?
  • Had to drink considerably more than you once did to reach the effect you want? Or discovered that your typical number of drinks had much less effect than before? 
  • Found that when the effects of drinking were wearing off, you had alcohol withdrawal symptoms?

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

  • Behavioral treatments
  • Medications
  • Mutual-support groups

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. 

Resources

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Alcohol Use and Your Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), May 2021

Alcohol, World Health Organization (WHO)

U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025. 9th Edition. December 2020.

Treatment for Alcohol Problems: Finding and Getting Help, National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Al-Jefri, K et al. “High prevalence of alcohol use disorders in patients with inflammatory skin diseases.” The British journal of dermatology vol. 177,3 (2017): 837-844

Perney, Pascal, and Philippe Lehert. “Insomnia in Alcohol-Dependent Patients: Prevalence, Risk Factors and Acamprosate Effect: An Individual Patient Data Meta-Analysis.” Alcohol and alcoholism (Oxford, Oxfordshire) vol. 53,5 (2018): 611-618

Key Substance Use and Mental Health Indicators in the United States: Results from the 2018 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Brand, Rhonda M et al. “Skin Immunization Obviates Alcohol-Related Immune Dysfunction.” Biomolecules vol. 5,4 3009-28. 6 Nov. 2015

Rossi, Roberta Elisa et al. “Diagnosis and treatment of nutritional deficiencies in alcoholic liver disease: Overview of available evidence and open issues.” Digestive and liver disease : official journal of the Italian Society of Gastroenterology and the Italian Association for the Study of the Liver vol. 47,10 (2015): 819-25

Alcohol and Cancer, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), July 2019

Alcohol withdrawal, MedlinePlus, October 2019

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