What Happens When You Stop Drinking Alcohol?

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Alcohol addiction affects all aspects of a person’s physical and emotional health, reducing their ability to function properly in everyday life. If you or a loved one has decided to give up alcohol and live a life of sobriety, you can expect to experience some major changes in many different areas of your life.

Benefits of Quitting Alcohol

According to WebMD, the benefits of quitting alcohol are astounding and can produce some incredible changes, even within just one month of abstinence.1 After completing an alcohol detox program, you may experience some or all of the following changes.

  • Your brain begins to recover. Alcohol abuse is known to shrink brain matter, which is associated with cognitive problems like memory loss and difficulties concentrating. One study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research found that study participants showed significant improvement in motor skills after just two weeks after discontinuing their alcohol use. Although higher cognitive functions like concentration take a longer time to recover, brain recovery continues over time as alcohol abstinence is maintained.2
  • You lose weight. Alcohol not only inhibits digestion but it also typically contains a lot of sugar and empty calories. When you stop drinking, you automatically reduce your daily caloric intake. Even without making any other significant diet or exercise changes, removing alcohol from your diet entirely will result in some weight loss.
  • Your liver becomes healthier. Many alcoholics develop serious alcohol liver disease as a result of their alcohol abuse. The first stage of this disease is fatty liver, which in most cases, is temporary damage. Although this damage can eventually lead to more serious medical problems, if abstinence from alcohol is maintained, the liver will repair itself.3
  • Your risk of cancer is decreased. An estimated 3.5 percent of all cancer deaths in America are contributed to drinking alcohol.4 Research has continued to show that heavy drinkers are at increased risk of developing several types of cancer, including mouth, esophagus, throat, liver, and breast cancer.5 By eliminating alcohol from your lifestyle, you are decreasing your risk of developing these cancers.
  • You sleep better. A study published by New Scientist found that individuals who stopped drinking alcohol experienced a significant increase in sleep quality after just one month of sobriety.6
  • Your cardiovascular health improves. One UK study found that cholesterol levels and blood pressure of study participants fell significantly with just one month of abstinence from alcohol.1
  • You have more money. Most regular heavy drinkers spend a lot of money supporting their habit. Over time, this can lead to hundreds and thousands of dollars wasted on alcoholic beverages. When you stop drinking alcohol, those funds suddenly become available for you to save or spend in other ways.
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    Alcohol Withdrawal

    When you stop drinking alcohol, you will also experience alcohol withdrawal. For many people, this is the biggest hurdle to overcome throughout the alcohol detox process.

    The physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal typically peak within 24-72 hours of your last drink, but their severity will vary based on your alcohol abuse history, body composition, and additional drug abuse.

    Most of the time, the symptoms of alcohol withdrawal will last five to seven days and typically include7:

    • Depression
    • Cloudy thoughts
    • Anxiety
    • Sleep disturbances
    • Nausea and vomiting
    • Headache
    • Irritability
    • Loss of appetite
    • Shakiness
    • Rapid heart rate
    • Alcohol cravings

    According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, about 10 percent of people will experience more severe withdrawal symptoms, which may include8:

    • Seizures
    • Hallucinations
    • Fever
    • Profuse sweating
    • Tremors

    If you choose to enroll in Briarwood’s medical detox program for alcohol detox, our medical and clinical staff will help make the withdrawal process easier by treating uncomfortable symptoms and providing quiet, comfortable, semi-private rooms.

    Our drug detox programs are designed to provide the most comfortable and safe alcohol detox experience possible, so you can complete the detox process with minimal discomfort and continue on with your recovery journey.

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      Alcohol Withdrawal Timeline

      Although every person will have a different alcohol withdrawal experience, the general timeline for symptoms remains the same.

      6-8 hours after the last drink: You may experience some abdominal pain and nausea in addition to anxiety and insomnia.

      1 to 3 days after the last drink: It is normal to experience some confusion during this stage of alcohol withdrawal. Your body temperature may also increase and high blood pressure and/or irregular heartbeat are common at this time.

      4+ days after the last drink: Some people may experience more severe withdrawal symptoms and become very agitated, hallucinate, have seizures, or develop a fever.

      5-7 days after the last drink: Your symptoms are likely to have subsided at this stage. Some psychological symptoms may continue if they are left untreated.

      How to Stop Drinking Alcohol

      Now that you know a little bit about what you can expect to experience when you stop drinking, how should you go about quitting?

      The first—and most difficult—step for many people is making the decision to give up alcohol and get sober. If you’ve already made that decision, you are off to a great start!

      To achieve long-term sobriety, most people will need to invest in a comprehensive alcohol rehab treatment plan that begins with an alcohol detox program. Briarwood Detox Center provides a comprehensive assessment upon admission that will help our staff create an individualized treatment plan based on your personal needs. This plan will be updated and adjusted as you progress through your detox program to accommodate your changing needs.

      Although no one can force you to follow this treatment plan, it will provide the best opportunity for you to achieve a stable, sober state and continue with long-term sobriety.

      After you have completed your alcohol detox program, you may choose to follow our recommended treatment plan, which typically involves enrolling in a long-term drug and alcohol rehab program. In rehab, you will learn how to modify negative behaviors that have contributed to your addiction, recognize and deal with high-risk situations, manage cravings, and prepare for the possibility of relapse.

      Drug and alcohol rehab is a very important part of the recovery process because it provides essential tools and support needed throughout all stages of recovery. This will help you maintain your sobriety, even in the face of stress, anxiety, and other life challenges.

      You can start experiencing sobriety for yourself by calling Briarwood Detox Center today. Our knowledgeable admissions staff is available to answer your questions about our medically assisted drug and alcohol detox programs. All you have to do is pick up the phone to get started.


      1. https://www.webmd.boots.com/a-to-z-guides/features/effects-of-stopping-drinking-alcohol
      2. https://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=164051
      3. http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/hepatology/alcoholic-liver-disease/
      4. http://ascopubs.org/doi/full/10.1200/JCO.2017.76.1155
      5. https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body
      6. https://www.newscientist.com/article/mg22129502.600-our-liver-vacation-is-a-dry-january-really-worth-it/
      7. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/arh314/348-361.htm

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