Benefits of Quitting Alcohol: What To Expect, Timeline, Recovery
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Last Updated - 2/17/2023View our editorial policy
Alcohol consumption is common. In fact, a 2019 survey revealed that 69.5% of U.S. adults had consumed alcohol within the past year, and 25.8% of adults reported past-month binge drinking.
While alcohol use may be common, the reality is that heavy drinking can come with health risks and lead to an alcohol use disorder, which is the clinical term for an alcohol addiction. When you give up drinking, you benefit your body in many different ways.
Negative Effects of Drinking
Beyond the risk of addiction, drinking has numerous negative effects on the body, especially when consumed in excess. Even in people who are not physically dependent on alcohol, binge drinking (four or more drinks in one sitting for women and five or more for men) comes with health-related consequences.
Consider the negative effects of drinking:
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of heart disease
- Reduced immune system functioning
- Increased risk of various types of cancer
- Problems with learning and memory
- Higher risk of mental health problems like depression and anxiety
- Risky sexual behavior, which can increase the risk of sexually-transmitted infections
- Increased risk of violence and sexual assault
- Higher risk of injury from burns, motor vehicle accidents and falls
Timeline of What Happens When You Stop Drinking
When you stop drinking, you are likely to experience improvements in health and overall functioning after your body rids itself of alcohol. So, what happens when you stop drinking? This timeline can give you an idea of how your body responds when you give up alcohol:
- Six to 12 hours after you stop drinking: During this time, early alcohol withdrawal symptoms begin to appear. These symptoms are often minor and can include tremors, insomnia, upset stomach, anxiety, headache, palpitations, sweating and loss of appetite.
- 12 to 24 hours after you stop drinking: Withdrawal symptoms can intensify. You may experience visual, auditory or tactile hallucinations, which usually resolve within 48 hours.
- 24 to 48 hours after you stop drinking: If withdrawal symptoms are severe, you may experience withdrawal seizures.
- 48 to 72 hours after you stop drinking: In the most severe cases of withdrawal, you may experience a potentially fatal condition called delirium tremens. Symptoms include fever, sweating, elevated blood pressure, rapid heart rate, disorientation, agitation and visual hallucinations.
- Seven to 10 days after you stop drinking: Alcohol withdrawal symptoms tend to dissipate, and you will be ready to transition from medical detox to an ongoing treatment program.
- Three to six weeks after you stop drinking: While physical symptoms like tremors, sweating and upset stomach have passed by this point, you may experience psychological symptoms of alcohol withdrawal. These can include anxiety, sleep disturbances and negative mood. Symptoms typically resolve after six weeks of not drinking.
- Three or more months after you stop drinking: Some patients experience protracted alcohol withdrawal. In this case, mood disturbances, sleep problems and anxiety may continue. These symptoms can increase the risk of relapse, making it important to stay engaged in treatment.
Benefits of Quitting Alcohol
Initial alcohol withdrawal symptoms can be uncomfortable, but professional treatment can help you cope with these symptoms and begin experiencing the benefits of quitting alcohol. Some benefits of not drinking include improved functioning of organs like the liver and pancreas, reduced gastrointestinal symptoms and restoration of bone loss.
Alcohol is known to damage major organs, especially the liver, but quitting drinking has been shown to heal the liver and restore functioning. Alcohol abuse is also linked to chronic pancreatitis, but giving up drinking can restore the function and structure of this organ and decrease the risk of progressing from acute to chronic pancreatitis. Damage to the stomach is often reversed after giving up alcohol, and bone formation increases with abstinence, preventing bone loss.
Benefits of Not Drinking Alcohol Timeline
Giving up alcohol improves physical health and reduces the risk of chronic medical problems. When you stop drinking, you can expect health improvements to appear over time:
- One month after giving up alcohol: After a month with no alcohol, liver functioning begins to return to normal, and signs of liver injury are reversed. Elevated cholesterol and blood pressure levels also decrease during this time, and problems like irregular or elevated heart rate are corrected. You may also begin to see improvements in your gut bacteria, which can alleviate some of the gastrointestinal symptoms that can occur with alcohol abuse. Many of the health problems that appear with alcoholism show improvement after a month of abstinence. In the case of bone growth, improvements can begin as early as three weeks after quitting alcohol.
- Three months after giving up alcohol: Once you’ve achieved three months of sobriety, you’re likely to experience significant improvements in mood and overall functioning. This is because quitting drinking allows the brain to repair itself from the effects of alcohol abuse. One study found that remaining abstinent for three months increased volume in two regions of the brain: the cingulate gyrus and the insula. These brain regions are associated with cognitive, emotional and sensorimotor functioning. With improvements in brain functioning, you are likely to find you are able to think more clearly, and problems like anxiety and depression will fade.
How To Stop Drinking
If you’d like to give up alcohol and experience the benefits that come along with quitting drinking, you may require treatment to help you overcome the effects of alcohol addiction. Keep in mind that alcohol use disorder is a legitimate medical condition that makes it difficult to stop drinking. With quality treatment, you can learn to cope with triggers for drinking and reduce the negative impact that alcohol abuse has on your life.
Dangers of Quitting Drinking Cold Turkey
When you’re ready to stop drinking, you might be tempted to quit on your own so you can get through withdrawal as soon as possible. It is important to exercise caution because it can actually be dangerous to quit drinking cold turkey in some cases. For some people, alcohol withdrawal can lead to delirium tremens, a potentially fatal condition. Severe cases of alcohol withdrawal can also cause seizures, which require medical treatment.
Given the risks linked to alcohol withdrawal, it is important to reach out to a detox center so you have medical support and supervision while your body rids itself of alcohol. A medical detox can provide medications to reduce withdrawal complications and keep you as safe and as comfortable as possible while you undergo alcohol withdrawal.
Professional Help for Alcohol Cessation
Professional treatment for alcohol cessation typically begins with a medical detox program. These programs offer you support from medical staff while you experience potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms. After completing detox, it is important to transition to an ongoing treatment program so you can address the underlying issues that led to alcohol addiction.
Alcohol addiction treatment can occur on either an inpatient or outpatient basis. Patients participating in an inpatient rehab program live on-site at a treatment facility while undergoing treatment. This is a suitable option for people who do not have a supportive home environment or struggle with maintaining sobriety while living in the community. Other patients begin with an outpatient rehab program, which allows them to continue living at home while attending appointments at a treatment center.
Some people may begin with inpatient care and then step down to an outpatient program after establishing a period of sobriety. Treatment center staff can help you to determine the best option for your situation.
Get Help for Alcohol Addiction in Ohio
If you’re looking for Ohio alcohol addiction treatment, The Recovery Village Columbus offers a full range of addiction rehab services. We can provide:
- Medically assisted detox
- Inpatient rehab
- Partial hospitalization programming
- Intensive outpatient rehab
- Standard outpatient care
- Long-term aftercare
The Recovery Village Columbus provides a complete continuum of alcohol addiction care to Ohio residents. You can begin with our medical detox program and then transition to inpatient or outpatient rehab, depending on your unique needs. Our inpatient program offers numerous amenities, including a yoga therapy room, an art studio and two gyms, so you can enjoy recreational activities in recovery.
Top Reads About Alcohol Addiction
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol Use in the United States.” March 2022. Accessed April 28, 2022.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Understanding Alcohol Use Disorder.” April 2021. Accessed April 28, 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Alcohol Use and Your Health.” April 14, 2022. Accessed April 29, 2022.
Bayard, Max; Mcintyre, Jonah; Hill, Keith R.; Woodside, Jack. “Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome.” American Family Physician, March 15, 2004. Accessed April 28, 2022.
Heilig, Markus; Egil, Mak; Crabbe, John C.; Becker, Howard C. “Acute withdrawal, protracted abstinence […]sm: are they linked?” Addiction Biology, April 2010. Accessed April 29, 2022.
Thomes, Paul G.; et al. “Natural Recovery by the Liver and Oth[…] Chronic Alcohol Use.” Alcohol Research Current Reviews, April 2021. Accessed April 29, 2022.
Demirakca, Traute; et al. “Effects of Alcoholism and Continued Abst[…]mes in Both Genders.” Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research, September 2011. Accessed April 29, 2022.
Taylor, Keri S.; Seminowicz, David A.; Davis, Karen D. “Two systems of resting state connectivit[…]nd cingulate cortex.” Human Brain Mapping, September 2009. Accessed April 29, 2022.
Mirijello, Antonio; et al. “Identification and Management of Alcohol[…]Withdrawal Syndrome.” Drugs, 2015. Accessed April 29, 2022.