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Alcohol is a psychoactive and toxic substance that can cause dependence.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. Chronic alcohol use changes the body's chemistry and functioning, which may negatively affect how it looks and functions.
Some of these changes are reversible once a person quits drinking, while others will only stop progressing but not reverse. Some will continue to progress even after a person stops drinking.
Here are fourteen physical and mental health benefits of not drinking alcohol:
Heavy alcohol consumption can harm your skin. Drinking too much may lead to the following skin issues:12
When you stop drinking alcohol, you eventually restore elasticity to the skin. The redness and yellowing of the complexion slowly disappear.
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.13
On the other hand, "passing out" after excessive drinking does not constitute quality sleep. You will not get the restorative functions that normal sleep provides.
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.
Alcohol can derail 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 make 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.
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 were diagnosed with a substance use disorder and mental illness. But nearly 60 percent didn’t receive treatment.7
Alcohol negatively interferes with your immune system, stopping it from producing enough white blood cells to fight germs and bacteria. This is one reason why many heavy drinkers experience pneumonia and tuberculosis.
No longer consuming alcohol can also help prevent colds, the flu, and other illnesses you may have been unable to fight off due to chronic drinking.8
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 eat less food required for:
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 may absorb nutrients better.
Alcohol is a recognized carcinogen. This means consuming it increases your risk of developing cancer.14
These types of cancer include:
In 2020, 11,654 people died in alcohol-impaired driving traffic deaths. This was a 14 percent increase from cases recorded in 2019.15 This does not include other common accidents often intertwined with alcohol use, including burns, drownings, homicides, and more.
When you quit drinking alcohol, your chances of getting into an accident decrease significantly.
Your liver is in charge of ridding toxins from your body. Heavy drinking can take a toll on this organ, leading to other complications.
Luckily, the liver can regenerate and heal. When you stop drinking, you give your liver a chance to repair itself over time.
It’s not uncommon for a small amount of alcohol to make someone feel sexually charged. However, after more than a drink or two, alcohol can have the opposite effect.
Men who are heavy drinkers often report difficulty getting or keeping an erection.16 Women who are heavy drinkers, on the other hand, may notice their sex drive is lower and have increased dryness.
Drinking alcohol excessively can cause your blood pressure to rise. When you quit drinking, your blood pressure can revert to normal levels.
It may also help you decrease the chances of cardiovascular disease.
Your mental and physical health aren’t the only things that may improve when you cut back or quit drinking alcohol.
Adjusting your relationship with alcohol may help you avoid conflict with people who care about you. You may be moody, engage in inappropriate behavior, and experience impaired judgment when excessively drinking. All of which can often be avoided when sober.
Alcohol use and misuse have been linked to developing dementia. One study showed that 38.9 percent of people diagnosed with early onset dementia could be related to alcohol misuse.17
Alcoholic beverages can cause a series of stomach issues. Gastritis, or stomach lining inflammation, is common in heavy drinkers. This can cause acid reflux or the need to throw up.
People who struggle with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) should avoid drinking as it can worsen symptoms.
Alcohol can have a significant impact on your mind. It can cause:
When you stop drinking alcohol, your mind will be able to recover. This can greatly improve your memory and other cognitive functions.
Cutting back or quitting alcohol can be good for your heart. Once you stop drinking, you'll experience:
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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.
People who drank minimally may experience few or mild withdrawal symptoms, but excessive drinkers can experience harsher side effects. However, the benefits of quitting drinking can be worth the trouble.
Alcohol withdrawal symptoms may include:11
While these withdrawal symptoms can persist for weeks, those in recovery will start to notice the improved effects of giving up alcohol in time.
Alcohol withdrawal varies for everyone. There is no ‘normal’ way of experiencing it, and predicting a single person’s experience can be challenging. No doctor can determine how long it takes for the benefits to show.
Some report positive effects after a week of no drinking. Others may feel it takes months to notice them.
Adults of legal drinking age can decide not to drink or to drink in moderation by reducing intake to two drinks or less a day for men and one drink or less a day for women.3
Drinking less is better than drinking more.
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The following are signs you should quit drinking alcohol.4
In the last year, have you:
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.
Some common treatment options for alcohol addiction include:4
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Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about the benefits of not drinking alcohol:
For many of those who experience alcohol withdrawal symptoms, day 4 of not drinking brings relief from severe symptoms. However, for others, this is when symptoms are just beginning.
Those who experience the most severe and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms do not begin to have them until day 2 or 3. These withdrawal symptoms can include hallucinations and seizures.
Many people will experience improved sleep after a week of not drinking. However, it can take up to a month or longer for some.
After 2 weeks of no alcohol, you may continue to enjoy the health benefits of better sleep and hydration.
Alcohol is an irritant to the stomach lining, so after 2 weeks, you will also notice a reduction in symptoms like acid reflux. This is where the stomach acid burns your throat.
After 2 weeks, you will likely lose weight after giving up alcohol’s empty calories. This is not true for everyone, though.
Not all people lose weight after quitting drinking; some gain weight. This is particularly true if people replace alcohol with high-caloric foods and beverages.
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 improve relationships with loved ones.
After 3 months of no drinking, the liver and cells throughout the body heal and experience significant change. Energy levels will also begin to rise.
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