Physical & Mental Effects of Quitting Alcohol Drinking

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Red wine contains antioxidants and is beneficial if consumed in moderation.
Red wine contains antioxidants and is beneficial if consumed in moderation. (Image: Jupiterimages/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images)

According to the University of North Carolina, as of November 2004, 17 million Americans suffered from chronic alcoholism. That doesn’t mean that alcohol is inherently bad. The University of Harvard's Nutrition Source publication claims that moderate alcohol intake reduces the risk of stroke. Quitting alcohol, especially after a period of excessive consumption, has a range of physical and mental benefits. Abstinence can also partially reverse damage caused by alcohol.

Increased Brain Cell Production

According to a report by the University of North Carolina, brain cell production rates increased during an imposed period of alcohol abstinence when compared to an imposed period of alcohol consumption.

Withdrawal Symptoms

Quitting alcohol after a being a drinker is usually not easy. Moderate drinkers typically do not notice the mind symptoms that are associated with abstinence because they do not have a reliance on the substance. However, alcoholics or heavy drinkers do experience a range of physical and mental symptoms. According to a study titled “Exploring Alcohol Withdrawal Syndrome” by Deborah A. Finn and John C. Crabbe, the symptoms include shakes, hyperactivity and insomnia. In extreme cases, symptoms can include violent convulsions and vivid hallucinations.

Decreased Tolerance

Prolonged or excessive drinking results in an increased tolerance to alcohol. That’s why an alcoholic can drink to excess without little obvious intoxication. However, after quitting a previously high tolerance level will reduce over time. This means that if you stop drinking for a few months, you might find that after having your first few drinks, you feel more intoxicated than you’d typically expect.

Improved Mood

Alcohol is a depressant. While it might initially create a feeling of well-being, this is only because the alcohol suppresses one’s inhibitions. While not drinking won't be a quick fix for long-standing mental health issues, because alcohol is a depressant, abstinence can benefit your mood.

Improved Liver Function

The liver is central to your body’s filtering system. Excessive drinking puts a lot of strain on the liver and can lead to cirrhosis; excessive consumption of alcohol is the No. 1 cause of cirrhosis in the United States. When you stop drinking, your liver is not under such as a strain and can operate more efficiently.

Better Skin

Alcohol causes your capillaries to dilate. Dilated capillaries near the surface of the skin manifest as “gin blossoms,” a euphemism for the distinctive red, blotchy patches around a heavy drinker’s nose. Abstinence from alcohol allows the capillaries to return to their normal state. Effects from a damaged liver also manifest as skin problems, which are typically reversed with abstinence.

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