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Updated on October 3, 2022

What Happens When You Stop Drinking Alcohol

Alcohol has a significant impact on your life. It can negatively affect your health, relationships, and responsibilities. 

Years of alcoholism can significantly affect your body, especially if you drink heavily. Fortunately, it is possible to quit drinking.

There are various short- and long-term benefits of quitting drinking. You may notice changes when you quit or reduce your alcohol consumption. You can even notice positive changes within a month.

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The Benefits of Quitting Drinking

After just a month of stopping drinking, your body will likely benefit significantly. You'll notice better hydration, improved sleep, and increased productivity.

Likewise, your liver, stomach, and skin can benefit from no alcohol. You'll also reduce your calorie intake, so you may notice weight loss.

Here are some benefits that can occur when you stop drinking alcohol:

  • More energy 
  • Better sleep 
  • Improved productivity and increased focus
  • Decreased risk of alcohol-related illnesses
  • Decreased risk of alcohol-related mental health issues
  • Improved health and immune system
  • Possible weight loss
  • No more hangover effects
  • Improvements to memory and mood
  • Healthier skin
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What is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Alcohol withdrawal refers to the changes your body goes through when you stop drinking after a prolonged period or after heavy alcohol use.5

People with an alcohol use disorder (AUD) and heavy drinkers may experience alcohol withdrawal when they quit drinking. 

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms peak in about 48 hours. They should start to improve as the body adjusts to being without alcohol. This usually takes 3 to 7 days.

Some health problems associated with alcohol withdrawal include:

Tremors

Tremors typically start within the first 5 to 10 hours after your last alcoholic drink. They peak around 24 to 48 hours.

They may or may not be accompanied by:

  • A fast heart rate
  • Rapid breathing
  • An increase in blood pressure
  • Sweating
  • Nausea with or without vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Other symptoms

Alcohol Hallucinosis

Alcohol hallucinations begin within 12 to 24 hours after your last drink. They can last as long as two days.

Alcohol Withdrawal Seizures

Seizures can occur about six to 48 hours after your last drink. It’s not uncommon for several episodes to happen within several hours.

Delirium Tremens (DTs)

Delirium tremens (DTs) typically begin 2 to 3 days after your last alcoholic drink. They peak around 4 to 5 days after it.

It causes severe shifts in your breathing, circulation, and temperature control that can harm your health. It can also be fatal.

Symptoms can include:

  • Disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Irrational beliefs
  • Insomnia
  • Hallucinations

These are not the only effects of alcohol withdrawal. It’s essential to consult a professional if you are experiencing symptoms.

What Happens if You Quit Alcohol as a Moderate Drinker?

There is some evidence that light to moderate drinking is good for you. However, it pales in comparison to the findings showing that it isn't.8

Some research suggests low levels of alcohol consumption can have protective effects on diabetes and ischemic heart disease. However, scientists reported that the 'safest level of drinking is none.9

Any amount of alcohol use links to worsening health conditions. However, the risk also depends on how much a person drinks.

Even if you quit alcohol as a moderate drinker, among other benefits, you may see improvements in:

  • Sleep
  • Mental health
  • Mood
  • Productivity
  • Focus

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How to Safely Treat Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms

You can safely treat alcohol withdrawal symptoms through various rehab and detox options.

If you’re at home, follow these tips:1

  • Eat a healthy, nutritious, well-balanced diet
  • Drink plenty of water to keep hydrated
  • Boost your electrolytes with drinks like sports beverages. An imbalance can lead to seizures
  • Practice self-care to relax. Think hot showers, deep-breathing exercises, meditation, etc
  • Call a human services rehab center for help if you’re struggling with alcohol use disorder—your symptoms may be life-threatening if you don't get the proper care 
  • Contact your healthcare provider or call 911 if you experience severe symptoms

There are also detox programs available. They offer medically assisted or supervised ways to detox, typically with medication.

Benzodiazepines, for example, are a class of sedative medications. Doctors may prescribe them to treat insomnia, anxiety, and seizures.

Some detox programs are held in hospitals or inpatient facilities. Others can be done at outpatient clinics.

You may choose to explore both inpatient and outpatient rehab options. Rehab centers will place you with credible medical professionals.  They will be there with you while you wean off alcohol.

Do You Lose Weight When You Stop Drinking?

One of the side effects of heavy drinking is weight gain. Alcohol has a few characteristics that can influence weight gain, such as:

  • Containing extra calories
  • Having a tendency to make you hungrier 
  • Increased impulsivity to make poor diet decisions
  • Redistribute fat

While not everyone will lose weight when they stop drinking, you may lose some.

Plus, when you have better sleep quality and more energy from being alcohol-free. You’ll be more motivated and energized to exercise.

What Happens to Your Liver When You Stop Drinking?

The liver processes alcohol (ethanol) with the help of enzymes that help with digestion. Too much alcohol can damage those enzymes and lead to cell death. 

Excessive drinking can take a toll on your liver, potentially leading to: 

  • Fatty liver 
  • Acute alcoholic hepatitis
  • Cirrhosis 
  • Other liver-related issues 

The good news is that your liver can often heal and regenerate when you stop drinking. Although the liver may heal with time, It won’t necessarily happen overnight. 

The healing process can take a few days to a few weeks after you stop drinking. However, it can take months to heal if the damage is too severe. 

If too much scar tissue develops as cells die, your liver may not be able to function as it should. Overall, it's always worth drinking less or quitting.

Treatment Options for Alcohol Abuse & Addiction

Here are some of the best treatment options for alcohol use disorder (AUD):

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Resources

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  1. “Can You Manage Alcohol Withdrawal At Home?” Turning Point Addiction Treatment In Southaven MS, 2019.
  2. “Drinking Too Much Alcohol Can Harm Your Health. Learn the Facts.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2020.
  3. Myrick, Hugh, and Raymond F. Anton. “Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal.” National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, 1998.
  4. Priory Group. “The Benefits of Giving up Alcohol for a Month.” Priory Group
  5. Publishing, Harvard Health. “Alcohol Withdrawal.” Harvard Health
  6. “Schedule Your Appointment Online.” How Quickly The Liver Can Repair Itself | Piedmont Healthcare
  7. Traversy, Gregory, and Jean-Philippe Chaput. “Alcohol Consumption and Obesity: An Update.” Current Obesity Reports, Springer US, 2015.
  8. Yes, it’s true: Wine is good for you — to a point, USC News, University of Southern California, 2018.
  9. N. Fullman, C. Hawley, et al. “Alcohol use and burden for 195 countries and territories, 1990-2016: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2016.” Lancet, 2018.

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