What Happens When You Stop Drinking Alcohol

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What Happens When You Stop Drinking Alcohol
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Alcohol has a significant impact on your life. It can negatively affect your health, relationships, and responsibilities.

What Happens When You Stop Drinking Alcohol?

Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more.

John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

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Table of Contents
Table of Contents

If you’re like most people, you probably enjoy the occasional alcoholic beverage. Whether it’s a glass of wine with dinner or a couple of beers while watching the game, alcohol can be an enjoyable way to relax and socialize.

However, there are also many people who struggle with alcohol abuse and addiction. If you’re one of these individuals, you may have decided that it’s time to quit drinking.

Timeline: What Happens When You Stop Drinking Alcohol?

If you’re ready to give up alcohol, and you are drinking every day, here is a timeline of what you can expect in regards to your mental and physical health when you stop drinking. If you have alcohol use disorder but only drink on weekends, know that you will also get benefits from stopping:

  • After One Day: The first day is always the hardest, but it’s also an important milestone. After 24 hours without alcohol, your body will start to detoxify and you may experience withdrawal symptoms. It’s important to remember that they are only temporary and will usually subside within a few days. For individuals with severe alcohol dependence, however, withdrawal symptoms can be more severe and may require medical attention.
  • After Three Days: After three days, you will likely start to feel more like yourself. However, individuals who have been drinking heavily for long periods of time may still experience some symptoms of withdrawal and may even have hallucinations or delirium tremens (DTs) and seizures. Delirium tremens is a a serous and life threatening condition, and If you’re concerned about your symptoms, it’s important to talk to your doctor.
  • After One Week: After one week without alcohol, your risk of seizures is much less. Also, your risk of developing cardiovascular disease will start to decrease. This is because alcohol can increase your blood pressure and make your heart work harder. In the coming weeks, your liver will also begin to repair itself.
  • After One Month: A month alcohol-free is a big accomplishment. This is usually when people start to feel their best after giving up alcohol. By this point, most physical withdrawal symptoms should have subsided and you should start to feel less anxious and more positive. One study showed that after 6 weeks of abstinence from alcohol, brain volume increases by an average of 2%.
  • After Six Months: After half a year without drinking, you will really start to reap the rewards. Your risk of developing cancer will decrease, and your liver function will have greatly improved. You’ll also have more energy and stamina, and you may notice that your skin looks healthier.
  • After One Year: Congrats on making it to 12 months! At this point, your risk of developing all types of disease will be reduced and your bone density will start to increase. Keep in mind that everyone is different and will experience different things when they stop drinking.

While giving up alcohol can be a challenge, it’s important to remember that the benefits are well worth it.

Other Effects of Quitting Alcohol

Here are some of the most common effects of giving up alcohol.

1. Your body starts to detox.

When you first stop drinking, your body will begin to detoxify itself. This can lead to withdrawal symptoms, including anxiety, tremors, sweating, and nausea.

2. You may have trouble sleeping.

One of the most common side effects of giving up alcohol is insomnia. This is because alcohol acts as a sedative, so when it’s no longer in your system, you may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.

3. Your appetite may change.

When you drink alcohol, even in moderate amounts, it can result in obesity. So, when you stop drinking, you may find that you have fewer cravings for food.

4. You may feel irritable or anxious.

It’s common to feel anxious or irritable when you first give up alcohol. This is because alcohol is a central nervous system depressant, so when it’s no longer in your system, your body has to adjust to the change.

5. You may have mood swings.

Along with anxiety and irritability, you may also experience mood swings when you give up alcohol.

6. Your liver will start to repair itself.

Alcohol is a toxin that can damage your liver. However, when you stop drinking, your liver will begin to repair itself and the damage will start to reverse.

7. Your risk of developing certain diseases will decrease.

If you’re a heavy drinker, you’re at an increased risk of developing certain diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, and stroke. However, when you stop drinking, your risk of developing these diseases decreases.

8. Your skin may improve.

One of the surprising side effects of giving up alcohol is that your skin may start to look better. This is because alcohol can cause dehydration, which can lead to dry, dull skin. So, giving up alcohol can help your skin to look more hydrated and glowing.

9. You may have more energy.

Once the initial symptoms of withdrawal have subsided, you may find that you have more energy than you did before you stopped drinking. This is because alcohol is a depressant, so when it’s no longer in your system, your body has more energy to work with.

10. You may think more clearly.

Another benefit of giving up alcohol is that your mind may be clearer. This is because alcohol can cause changes in brain chemistry, which can lead to cognitive problems.

11. You may feel happier.

One of the best things about giving up alcohol is that you may find yourself feeling happier overall. This is because alcohol can cause depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems.

12. You may have more money.

One of the financial benefits of giving up alcohol is that you’ll likely have more money to spend. This is because alcohol is a costly habit, so giving it up can free up some extra cash.

13. You may live longer.

One of the most significant benefits of giving up alcohol is that you may increase your lifespan. This is because alcohol abuse can lead to serious health problems, such as liver disease and cancer. So, giving up alcohol can help you to avoid these potentially deadly diseases.

14. You may feel more productive.

One of the unexpected benefits of giving up alcohol is that you may find yourself more productive than before. This is because alcohol can cause fatigue and decreased motivation, so when you stop drinking, you may find it easier to get things done.

15. You may have better relationships.

Alcohol can cause problems in relationships, such as conflicts, communication problems, and trust issues. So, giving up alcohol may help you to improve your relationships with friends and family.

It is worth mentioning that nutritional status improvement occurs when someone strop drinking, which is one big reason why people may see many of the above improvements with sobriety.

A Word From Verywell

There are many benefits to giving up alcohol, both short-term and long-term. If you’re considering quitting drinking, these benefits may be just what you need to help you make the decision. Of course, giving up alcohol is not always easy, and there may be some challenges along the way. But if you’re committed to sobriety, it’s definitely possible to achieve your goal.

If you or a loved one are struggling with alcohol use disorder, contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for information on support and treatment facilities in your area.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

10 Sources

Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.

  1. Newman RK, Stobart Gallagher MA, Gomez AE. Alcohol Withdrawal. [Updated 2021 Nov 13]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK441882/
  2. Zima T. Alcohol Abuse. EJIFCC. 2018;29(4):285-289. Published 2018 Dec 5.
  3. Durazzo TC, Mon A, Gazdzinski S, Meyerhoff DJ. Regional brain volume changes in alcohol-dependent individuals during early abstinence: associations with relapse following treatment. Addict Biol. 2017;22(5):1416-1425. doi:10.1111/adb.12420
  4. Goodman GD, Kaufman J, Day D, et al. Impact of Smoking and Alcohol Use on Facial Aging in Women: Results of a Large Multinational, Multiracial, Cross-sectional Survey. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2019;12(8):28-39.
  5. Anam AK, Insogna K. Update on Osteoporosis Screening and Management. Med Clin North Am. 2021;105(6):1117-1134. doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2021.05.016
  6. Yeomans MR, Caton S, Hetherington MM. Alcohol and food intake. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care. 2003;6(6):639-644. doi:10.1097/00075197-200311000-00006
  7. Saitz R. To Start With to alcohol withdrawal. Alcohol Health Res World. 1998;22(1):5-12.
  8. Koob GF. Neurocircuitry of alcohol addiction: synthesis from animal models. Handb Clin Neurol. 2014;125:33-54. doi:10.1016/B978-0-444-62619-6.00003-3
  9. Mira RG, Lira M, Tapia-Rojas C, Rebolledo DL, Quintanilla RA, Cerpa W. Effect of Alcohol on Hippocampal-Dependent Plasticity and Behavior: Role of Glutamatergic Synaptic Transmission. Front Behav Neurosci. 2020;13:288. Published 2020 Jan 24. doi:10.3389/fnbeh.2019.00288
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By Arlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, is the author of “Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder” and “7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety.”

What Happens When You Stop Drinking Alcohol

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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

Is Alcohol Addiction Affecting Your Life?

If you or a loved one is suffering, call now. An Addiction Specialist can help:

  • Answer questions about treatment
  • Provide financial assistance options
  • Give you valuable guidance and resources

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

Questions About Insurance?

Addiction specialists are available 24/7 to help you navigate costs, insurance, and payment options

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):

  • Inpatient programs
  • Partial hospitalization programs (PHPs)
  • Outpatient programs
  • Medication-assisted therapy (MAT)
  • Support groups