Alcohol is a socially accepted drug, and whether we are addicted to it or not, our bodies and minds suffer from the effects of this substance.
That’s why in this article we will see the main benefits of quitting alcohol , although there are more.
The effect of alcohol on the body
Before knowing the advantages of quitting alcoholic beverages, we will see what alcohol is and how it acts in our brain, to later talk about alcohol addiction and the benefits of quitting (whether you are addicted or not).
Alcohol is a central nervous system (CNS) depressant . On a chemical level, it is an acetaldehyde metabolite; it is a simple, lipid, water-soluble molecule that acts by disrupting the neuronal membranes.
Specifically, its mechanism of action consists of agonizing GABA-a and antagonizing glutamate. These two substances are neurotransmitters; GABA is the main neurotransmitter inhibiting the CNS, and glutamate is the main exciter.
So alcohol is actually a drug; in fact, it is a socially accepted drug, and being legal, many experts consider it one of the most dangerous drugs, especially because of the easy access we have to it.
The benefits of quitting alcohol are numerous, and taking them into account can help us stop using it, or at least reduce its consumption.
Alcohol, like all drugs, can produce different disorders . Its addiction is dangerous, and according to the figures of the DSM-5 (Diagnostic Manual of Mental Disorders), up to 4.6% of the population between 12 and 17 years of age suffers from an alcohol consumption disorder (addiction). This figure increases to 8.5% if we are in the older population. Regarding the distribution by sex, 12.2% were male, as compared with 4.9% of females.
The development of an addiction to alcohol (popularly called alcoholism) carries with it a series of very harmful consequences for the individual, in all spheres of his or her life and in his or her own body, with the added risk of suffering complications of various kinds. Thus, stomach, oesophagus, liver, pancreas, colon, breast problems may appear…
It is important to note that it is not necessary to have an addiction to alcohol, or very frequent consumption of it, to develop all these types of problems, since the mere fact of drinking is harmful to health (logically, the more we drink, the worse).
8 benefits of quitting alcohol
What are the benefits of quitting alcohol? Here are some of them.
Overcoming an addiction to this substance is not an easy task, as people who suffer from it know well, but if it is achieved, the benefits of giving up alcohol are numerous, both on a physiological and on a psychological and social level (in this article, we will focus on the physiological and psychological benefits).
These benefits also come from the simple fact of stopping drinking, even if we have not been diagnosed with an addiction. In other words, such health benefits apply to anyone who consumes alcohol to a greater or lesser extent, and who decides to stop. They are as follows.
1. Improvement in mood
The first of the benefits of quitting alcohol is improvement on a psychological level, especially in mood. The person who has overcome an addiction can embark on a freer path , where no substance dominates or controls his life and emotions .
In addition, alcoholics often show irritability and mood swings, whether in the phase of drunkenness or abstinence, which seriously damages their emotional health and that of those around them.
2. Avoidance of stomach and/or liver disease
It is a fact that alcohol consumption, especially in the long term, carries a high risk of developing different types of diseases, the most frequent being those affecting the stomach and liver.
Thus, abandoning this practice entails reducing the risk of developing this type of disease (for example, cirrhosis, hepatitis, stomach cancer, esophagitis…). In the case of the liver, for example, this is because, when it stops drinking alcohol, it has to process less fat, and therefore works better .
3. Immune system enhancement
People who consume alcohol often have a higher risk of developing almost any type of disease, especially one caused by viruses or bacteria. This is because the immune system is weakened because alcohol inhibits cytokines , proteins that coordinate the immune system’s response.
Therefore, another benefit of quitting alcohol is a greater immunization against different pathogens that can make us sick.
4. Sleep Improvement
Alcohol is a substance that can also alter our sleep patterns (circadian sleep-wake rhythms). That is why stopping drinking will help us regulate these patterns and by extension , our sleep will improve substantially. Thus, for example, we will have a more restful and less fragmented sleep.
5. Weight loss
Another benefit of quitting alcohol is that it helps you lose weight. This is either a health benefit or an aesthetic benefit (for some people).
Why do we lose weight when we stop drinking? Two reasons: because you avoid taking in the calories contained in alcohol, and because alcohol stimulates other senses, increasing the appetite on many occasions. In addition, we often associate the glass of wine or the glass of beer with a tapa.
6. Improves the appearance of the skin
The pancreas, liver and stomach are not the only organs that get better when we stop drinking alcohol: the skin does too (yes, the skin is an organ too!)
This is because, by consuming alcohol, we eliminate more urine and the body becomes dehydrated. So, abandoning this practice, improves the hydration of our skin and therefore also its appearance . In this way, the skin looks brighter and healthier.
7. Prevention of some types of cancer
On the other hand, experts like Dr. Blai, as well as some studies, suggest that not drinking alcohol prevents some types of cancer, such as: mouth cancer, breast cancer and larynx cancer.
8. Improvement of cognitive processes
The benefits of quitting alcohol also affect a person’s psyche, such as through cognitive processes like memory and attention.
It is a fact that people who drink frequently (and especially those who are addicted), end up having more difficulty in concentrating or retaining certain information (moreover, they may seem slower to speak or reason); that is, they have less clear thinking.
That’s why quitting alcohol will help your mind clearer, your thinking faster, and your memory better.
- American Psychiatric Association (APA) (2014). DSM-5. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. Madrid: Panamericana.
- Berrios, G. (1990). Organic disorders in psychiatry. In Fuentenebro, F. and Vázquez, C. Medical psychology, psychopathology and psychiatry. Interamericana McGraw-Hill, Madrid.
- Guzman, R.G. and Ramirez, J.A. (2006). Alcohol consumption and public health. Journal of the Faculty of Medicine, UNAM.