Excessive drinking does a lot of long-term damage to the body. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, abusing alcohol can impair the immune system, harm our organs and increase cancer risk.
The most obvious immediate side effects of drinking are related to the harm it causes to the brain. You feel dizzy, confused and disoriented right after drinking a lot of alcohol. The next day, you feel groggy and may have a headache. Other common physical side effects of alcohol include nausea, vomiting and low body temperature.
These effects are symptoms of the internal damage that alcohol causes. Vital organs and other internal parts of the body can recover from infrequent, moderate drinking. But the regular binge drinking and heavy drinking that often accompany alcohol addiction can cause long-term damage that lowers your quality of life. Drinking this way increases your chances of developing numerous alcohol-related diseases.
Fortunately, the body can usually bounce back if you quit drinking. Recovery from liver damage may even be possible. You may not realize that alcohol is hurting your everyday health until you quit drinking and start to feel better.
The most noticeable physical benefits of sobriety occur in the brain. Depending on how much you’re used to drinking, these can occur fairly quickly.
Within a few days or weeks you’ll notice improvements in your:
Cutting back on alcohol intake may help you lose weight. It can also help improve nutritional deficiencies related to drinking. Quitting alcohol can also lower your risk of developing different cancers.
Quitting alcohol can potentially prevent:
Alcohol also harms the immune system. People who drink regularly may be more likely to get sick. Abstaining from alcohol allows your body’s natural defenses to operate at full strength and protect you from disease.
In addition to physical side effects, alcohol can cause several mental health problems. It often disrupts sleep and mood. People who drink heavily are at an increased risk for anxiety disorders and depression. Extremely heavy drinkers may also experience hallucinations. Quitting alcohol can help you recover from many mental health ailments.
The mental health benefits of sobriety include:
If you continue to experience mental health problems after months of abstinence, you may have a co-occurring disorder that’s independent of alcohol use. Alcohol can make existing mental health conditions worse, but co-occurring disorders are treatable if you receive therapy.
Most reputable alcohol recovery programs address co-occurring disorders.
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Drinking too much alcohol can lead to embarrassing moments and regrettable situations. People who overdrink or drink too often are more likely to experience problems in other parts of life.
When you quit drinking, you may experience:
Many people don’t notice that alcohol is impacting other parts of their life. They may not realize that they’re spending less time with friends or family because they’re recovering from a hangover. Or they may not recognize that sluggishness at work or school is related to drinking the night before.
In the earliest alcoholic recovery stages, alcoholics may also rationalize their drinking or deny that there’s an issue — even when all signs point to a problem.
It’s difficult to estimate when a person will experience benefits from sobriety because each person is different. Factors such as your age, gender, weight, family history and existing health conditions affect the benefits that you’ll experience.
For example, a 55-year-old man who has been drinking three beers each day for 20 years has probably developed minor liver problems. Abstaining from alcohol is likely to have a major impact on his life. His liver will be able to heal itself after a month or two of abstinence, and he’ll likely feel more energetic and focused within weeks of quitting.
A 25-year-old woman who only drinks a few glasses of wine on the weekend may not experience clear health benefits when she quits drinking. But she may notice that she has fewer groggy mornings.
However, a 25-year-old woman who binge drinks at every Friday happy hour and Sunday brunch will probably experience significant physical and mental health benefits after reducing her alcohol intake.
Some people with alcohol addiction may take longer to recognize the benefits of sobriety. They could continue to keep the alcoholic mindset even though they are sober. These people, sometimes referred to as dry drunks, may act recklessly or dysfunctionally.
Fortunately, recovery programs can help people adopt healthier ways of thinking and behaving to prevent an alcohol relapse.
Overall, high-risk drinkers are more likely to benefit from abstinence because alcohol is causing more health problems in their lives than it causes in the lives of responsible drinkers. But anyone can benefit from sobriety because the potential benefits of alcohol don’t outweigh its known harms and risks.
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