Effects of Alcohol Abuse and What Happens When You Stop Drinking

Monday, February 10, 2020 | By Admin

alcohol dependent man

Alcohol is a substance that is widely accepted throughout the entire world. Unfortunately, there are millions of people in the United States alone who struggle with alcohol use disorder. When alcohol use disorder is occurring, the brain becomes “rewired” to both crave alcohol and require it in order for the body to function. This is what causes the perpetual, dangerous drinking behaviors exhibited by alcoholics. 

When alcohol is consumed, it is absorbed into the bloodstream. Once in the bloodstream, it is pumped through all vital organs including the heart, liver, and kidneys. The more that alcohol is abused, the more likely it becomes for a person to suffer vital organ damage as a result of this process. 

The desired effects of drinking alcohol (e.g. lowered inhibitions, relaxation) can kick in after consuming 1-2 drinks (one drink is considered 12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, or 1.5 oz of distilled spirits). However, because alcohol is a depressant, the more that a person consumes, the more intense his or her symptoms will become. Instead of simply experiencing lowered inhibitions and relaxation, a person can quickly begin experiencing dizziness, shaking, loss of consciousness, and vomiting. If drinking continues to a point where the body can no longer process the consumed alcohol, an overdose occurs, which can lead to permanent damage if not cause death. 

Sadly, many people are unable to be responsible with their drinking or abstain from it because they have the disease of addiction. As an alcohol addiction develops and morphs into something more severe, the effects that a person can experience can range from being inconvenient to deadly. 

Effects of Alcohol Abuse

If you have alcohol use disorder, you will experience the effects of your drinking. However, those effects are going to vary based on how much and how often you drink, as well as what you are drinking and if you are experiencing any other physical/psychological health problems. Typically, however, people who have alcohol use disorder develop a number of physical and psychological effects:

Physical effects

  • Blacking out 
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk for cancer
  • Loss of gray matter in the brain (responsible for speech, self-control, memory)
  • Loss of white matter in the brain (which aids in the speedy transport of signals in the brain)

Psychological effects

  • Mood swings
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Poor attention span
  • Cognitive learning difficulties

It is also possible to develop wet brain as a result of alcohol use disorder. Symptoms of wet brain include severe memory loss, problems forming new memories, hallucinations, and confusion. 

In order to stop the occurrence of symptoms such as these, as well as the development of further symptoms, it is imperative that you stop drinking as soon as possible. 

effects when you stop drinking alcohol


What Happens When You Stop Drinking: Six Hours to Two Weeks After Quitting

What happens to your body when you stop drinking? When someone makes the decision to stop drinking, the first 72 hours are critical, as they’re in the most painful part of the treatment and recovery process. As your body flushes all the alcohol from your system, you’ll experience the unpleasant pangs of acute withdrawal — but the benefits of quitting drinking will soon make themselves known. Chances are that you have experienced some level of distress when not able to drink and have tried to avoid that distress at all costs. But, if you stop drinking, there is no way around the physical and psychological upset that can develop. Continuing to drink is only going to cause more issues throughout your life and may possibly lead to fatality. 

Withdrawal Symptoms 

When you stop drinking, you can experience a period of withdrawal that can vary in intensity based on your relationship with alcohol. The most important thing you need to know about alcohol withdrawal is that it can be deadly. Unlike most other types of withdrawal, if you do not receive the appropriate care when ending your alcohol abuse, you may suffer fatal effects. These effects include:

  • Seizures
  • High blood pressure
  • Tachycardia (increased heart rate) 

Seizures can be deadly in their own right, however, if you fall while having a seizure, that fall can be fatal depending on the circumstances. High blood pressure increases your risk of stroke, aneurysm, or heart failure, while tachycardia can cause a heart attack. All of these effects can be deadly, which is why receiving treatment is critical when ending your alcohol use

When you stop drinking, your body is working to develop a healthy balance once again. As this work occurs, however, you can experience other withdrawal symptoms that are painful but not deadly. They include:

  • Shaking
  • Headaches
  • Sweating
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Anxiety
  • Insomnia

Delirium tremens can also occur if you have a severe alcohol use disorder. Also known as the DTs, delirium tremens causes uncontrollable shaking, confusion, and hallucinations.

Withdrawal Timeline 

Alcohol withdrawal symptoms can develop as soon as six hours after your last drink and continue for up to two weeks. Your history with alcohol and your overall biology determines how intense your withdrawal from alcohol will be. Usually, the more severe the alcohol use disorder, the more intense the withdrawal. In some instances, withdrawal symptoms can last far past two weeks. 

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression
  • Aggression
  • Sleep problems
  • Sexual dysfunction

With the proper therapeutic attention, these symtpoms can be treated through a combination of therapy and medication (if deemed necessary).

Post-Acute Withdrawal: Two Weeks+ After Quitting

While the most infamous phase of recovery is the initial withdrawal stage, full detoxification can take up to two weeks in some cases. As your body is getting rid of the last remnants of alcohol, psychological symptoms can advance quickly — but so can the positive effects. When this occurs, it is known as post-acute withdrawal syndrome, or PAWS. 

The Good

With the worst of the physical symptoms behind you in primary detox, your outlook is likely to improve significantly. The first one to two weeks without alcohol is a revolutionary time for many – a chance to redefine relationships, coping mechanisms, and healthy habits.

Many individuals with alcohol abuse disorders know in theory how good it feels to take back power through quitting drinking and sustaining an extended period of sobriety, but this time is vital for actually cementing positive reinforcement for abstinence.

The Tough

As most would expect, mixed in with the highs are periods of emotional lows. These effects aren’t as physically urgent as the ones experienced in the first stages of withdrawal, but they can take a big toll on your newly sober psyche:

  • Anxiety & depression
  • Decreased energy & metabolism
  • Feelings of aggression or hostility
  • Declined sexual interest or function
  • Sleep disruption & nightmares

These symptoms develop after the acute withdrawal period and can last for a couple of weeks all the way up to a year depending on the severity of prior alcoholism. The name for this phenomenon is “protracted/post-acute withdrawal symptoms,” or PAWS.

The worst part of these symptoms is the formidable cravings for alcohol. Even after removing all traces of alcohol from your system, the brain will still want it to help return to the balance of chemicals it has gotten used to — but knowing the source of these symptoms is key to dealing with cravings appropriately.

Your Body Back on Track: One Month+ After Quitting

Even as sufferers of alcoholism are still kicking the negative symptoms of withdrawal and the unpleasantness of detox, their bodies are already getting back into gear. Though the long-term effects of alcohol can be devastating, people who forego alcohol for as little as one month can already see the immediate benefits of quitting drinking.

To measure the impact of alcohol — and its absence — on people’s health, a team at New Scientist decided to work with the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London Medical School to find out just what happens to your body when you stop drinking alcohol for one month. They expected to see some immediate benefits of quitting drinking, but their findings were even more groundbreaking than expected:

  • Liver fat decreased an average of 15%, with some participants losing up to 20%.

Accumulation of fat in the liver is a precursor to liver damage — creating inflammation that can lead to liver disease. A reduction this large means that an almost immediate benefit of quitting drinking can help your liver slim down, dramatically reducing your chances of developing cirrhosis or other chronic liver conditions.

  • Blood glucose levels dropped an average of 16%.

This is incredibly significant among the benefits of the quitting alcohol timeline since high levels of glucose circulating in the bloodstream are a sign of heightened blood sugar and can increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Once those levels get under control, the risk is reduced.

  • Total blood cholesterol decreased by nearly 5%.

Heart disease, one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., can be predicted in part by examining patients’ cholesterol levels. While an average decrease of 5% in blood cholesterol might not seem like much, it’s quite significant when achieved as a result of cutting out alcohol.

Not only did the experiment show healthier physiology after alcohol cessation, but the patients also experienced boosted performance in psychological areas as well:

  • Reported sleep quality improved by 10% after the study.
  • Participants benefitted from a whopping 18% increase inability to concentrate.

While researchers and spectators alike guessed that quitting alcohol would have several health benefits, all were surprised at the sheer number and quality of positive outcomes that were observed.

Why Should I Stop Drinking?

Consumption of alcohol produces strong reactions in both the brain and body — which is why we tend to like it so much. However, that also means that the resulting addiction timeline has an incredibly strong physical and psychological grip on the sufferer. The physical symptoms of long-term alcohol abuse include:

The psychological side of things isn’t pretty either. Alcohol abuse puts you at risk for:

  • Depression & anxiety
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Dementia and other neural degeneration

5 Benefits of Stopping Drinking

According to a study conducted by New Scientist and the Institute for Liver and Digestive Health at University College London Medical School, there are a substantial amount of benefits from stopping drinking. The study deduced that individuals who stopped drinking for one full month experienced the following:

  • Liver fat decreased anywhere from 15% to 20%
  • Blood glucose levels dropped 16% on average
  • Total bad cholesterol decreased by nearly 5%
  • Sleep quality increased by 10%
  • Ability to concentrate increased by 18%

These are merely just some of the physical benefits of no longer drinking. If you have alcohol use disorder, getting help to stop can help you mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.

Do You Need Help to Stop Drinking? Call Emerald Coast Today.

If you are struggling with alcohol use disorder, or are not sure if you have a problem or not, reach out to JourneyPure Melbourne right now. We can help you determine what type of treatment is most appropriate for your needs.

You do not have to go through this alone. Alcohol abuse is an extremely isolating disease, but if you let us, we can help you see the light again.

So, do not wait any longer. Take your life back and call Emerald Coast right now.

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