What Happens to Your Body When You Stop Drinking?
There are plenty of effects alcohol has on the mind and the body when actively drinking. But what happens to your body when you stop drinking?
While it might sound straightforward, this is a tricky question with complicated answers. It depends on how long and how severe a person’s alcohol use has been, and how long they plan to stop.
Many people choose to quit drinking because getting drunk takes a physical toll on the body. It dehydrates you, weakens your immune system, and can cause short- or long-term memory loss.
Doing this repeatedly over long periods takes a significant toll on a person’s mental and physical condition. Alcohol abuse can also lead to serious health issues and shorten a person’s lifespan.
There are short-term and long-term side effects when you quit drinking. Alcohol withdrawal symptoms are common and numerous. If you are struggling with symptoms right now or feel you might need help, call us at 623-263-7271. Our professionals can provide all the resources you need to take your first steps toward getting healthy.
What happens to your body when you stop drinking may surprise you. It is clearly beneficial, but there are some things to watch out for.
Alcohol Affects Your Body
Anyone who decides to quit drinking–who does not have a long history of drinking—will likely experience milder side effects at first. However, someone who has been drinking large quantities for a prolonged period may be in danger if they stop drinking abruptly.
The impact on the body also depends on how long you intend to stop drinking. Stopping for a few days may temporarily clear your head but is unlikely to reverse any physical conditions brought on by alcohol.
You may wonder what happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol for a month. Or even a year. Long-term abstinence produces the most substantial results. It can take weeks or months of sobriety before experiencing a significant physiological change. So, don’t get discouraged too quickly. As a substance, alcohol is categorized as a depressant.
This doesn’t mean drinking automatically makes you depressed. Instead, alcohol acts on the central nervous system, essentially slowing things down. It’s why you experience slurred speech and decreased reaction time.
Understand the Effects of Alcohol
Alcohol in small doses induces relaxation, which serves to elevates mood. People tend to be more talkative or outgoing when they drink and are more likely to say or do things they usually wouldn’t.
But it is important to understand that alcohol, like any drug, can significantly alter the brain’s structure. It causes dopamine–the “pleasure” substance in the brain—to overact.
In prolonged use, more and more alcohol is needed to produce the same pleasurable effect. And when alcohol is not present in the body, dopamine levels drop and induce depression or agitation feelings.
Subsequently, over time, alcohol consumption kills neurons in the brain. It shrinks the brain’s size.
In addition to this, other organs in the body are affected by excessive alcohol use. The liver is highly impacted. Drinking can result in fatty liver (called steatosis) and inflammation, and can also cause cirrhosis, which may involve irreparable tissue damage.
Heart ailments are common among heavy drinkers. Problems may include an irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure. Heavy use can also lead to stretching of the heart muscles, which is known as cardiomyopathy.
There are even several forms of cancer that are now linked to alcohol dependence. Liver and breast cancer and colorectal cancer are all more common in people who drink excessively.
Overall, alcohol abuse serves to weaken the brain and immune system. This makes the body vulnerable to infection and diseases and impairs mental and physical capabilities. The longer a person drinks, the more susceptible they are to its effects. Are you worried about someone abusing alcohol? Are you suffering from addiction? No matter the situation – call us today. Our experts will work with you to get you into the right treatment center for you and your needs.
There are Benefits of Not Drinking
Abstaining from alcohol can have an incredibly positive impact on your overall physical and mental health. Studies show that refraining from alcohol consumption improves brain function, serves as a mood booster, and improves energy levels.
If you’ve ever awoken to a nasty hangover, you will know you can also avoid a great deal of physical discomfort. Even one drinking binge can take days to recuperate from.
Most importantly, by quitting, you may entirely avoid many of the more serious medical conditions linked with alcohol abuse.
The physical shrinking of the brain is caused by alcohol’s ability to reduce or erase nerve cells. However, abstaining from drinking for 1-5 months can give the brain time to heal itself. What happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol for 30 days or more can be truly remarkable.
Fortunately, the brain is a regenerative organ. It can grow new cells and reverse certain types of damage all on its own. But for this to happen, you need to stop causing harm to it in the first place.
The same can be said about other muscles and organs in your body.
By cutting drinking out of your daily habits, you can also avoid common sleep deprivation and exhaustion issues.
Drinkers often state that they use alcohol because it helps them sleep better. This may appear to be useful, but in reality, “passing out” is not the same as getting sound sleep. When you pass out or blackout, the alcohol continues working in your system. It causes erratic breathing patterns, and the brain is unable to relax, resulting in a disturbed sleep period.
Heavy Drinkers can Quit Too
What happens to your body when you stop drinking ranges. There are different risks involved in coming off alcohol if you have been drinking for a lengthy period.
People who have been abusing alcohol for years have conditioned their bodies to need the drink physically. Quitting can cause drastic physiological changes.
If you feel you are in this category, always consult a doctor or addiction professional before going “cold turkey.” You may need to ween yourself off the substance slowly.
Delirium Tremens—or the DTs—is a strict set of alcohol withdrawal symptoms. It causes sudden changes in the nervous system and can require hospitalization. Typically, it is found in subjects who have been abusing alcohol for ten or more years.
- Body tremors
- Nausea or vomiting
- Clammy skin or sweating
- Extreme confusion (delirium)
- Sensitivity to light or sound
- Extended deep sleep
- Irregular heartbeat
A seizure—or even multiple ones—are also a realistic possibility when experiencing the DTs.
Hallucinations can be expected as well, both visual and auditory. Some DT patients report hearing unexplained music or “radio static” in their heads. On top of being a disorienting experience, it is not very comforting.
You are at your highest risk for these reactions in the first 48 hours of quitting alcohol, but symptoms can continue for a week or more.
Again, consult a professional if you feel you are at risk of the DTs.
You might require a physical exam from a doctor. A detox program or short hospital stay may then be necessary, so you can be monitored while the alcohol exits your system. If you are a heavy drinker, then there is still hope for you! Do not get discouraged because you have been drinking longer. Call us today, and we can help any alcoholic get the treatment they need.
Quitting Alcohol if You are a Moderate Drinker
Some people consider cutting alcohol out of their lives before things get too out of control. Or they may be looking to improve their general health. The timeline for alcohol withdrawal symptoms varies, but it can continue from the first several hours up to a week or more after you stop drinking.
Here are some of the common side effects if you have been drinking regularly and decide to quit. Note that these are likely to coincide with more severe side effects in those who drink heavily.
- Persistent headache
- Clammy skin
- Nausea and vomiting
- Loss of appetite
- Increased heart rate
- Increased anxiety
- Unclear thinking
One of the great difficulties in giving up drinking is that many people will use alcohol to alleviate these effects. Drinking to cure a hangover may reduce the symptoms immediately, but it can also draw you into a dangerous cycle. This is what leads to alcohol dependency.
As unpleasant as these symptoms may be, remember they are only temporary. Rehydrating your body, eating, and getting rest are simple ways to remedy the discomfort. It would help if you had patience and determination.
Getting over the initial “hump” of alcohol withdrawal symptoms is the first step. After that, it becomes easier to abstain over time.
Escaping Alcohol’s Grip
Overall, what happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol is a regeneration of physical and psychological wellness. You need to be aware of the possible symptoms and dangers involved in the act of quitting. There is a broad spectrum when it comes to alcohol use, and it is helpful to be conscious of where you fall on that scale.
Take notice of how frequently you drink and how much alcohol you consume. Do you tend to overdo it when you drink? Do you often blackout or pass out as the result of a binge? Have you experienced “grey-outs” or memory loss? Have you been drinking consistently for an extended period without a break?
If so, these can be signs of a severe drinking issue. Alcohol is not as immediately addictive as other substances but can have far worse long-term effects.
You may not know if you have a drinking problem, or it’s possible you fully recognize it. Only stopping might not be enough. Many people require additional assistance to quit their drinking habits entirely.
Fortunately, there are many ways you can go about this, and there are various types of therapy available. Support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous and SMART Recovery offer an opportunity to listen to and engage with others who have drinking problems. They can be educational and beneficial to your recovery.
An easy step to take is reaching out to someone who professionally deals with alcoholism and addiction. Call us today to find out how to quit drinking and drastically improve your life. Your physical and mental health may depend on it!
Written by Christopher Dorsey
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