Addiction Treatment Programs
Safe, Effective, Customized Care
Get the Help You Need
We have beds available!
Editorial Policy | Research Policy
If you use alcohol every day, a life without drinking can be hard to imagine. However, stopping the use of alcohol can provide many benefits for your health as well as your overall well-being. Still, there are some potentially life-threatening risks that can arise when trying to quit alcohol, especially for heavy, long-term drinkers. It’s important to be aware of these dangers and learn how to avoid them when getting sober.
There are many potential negative effects of alcohol, including the effects of intoxication, long-term effects and withdrawal symptoms. An intoxicated person may experience nausea, vomiting and even memory loss, but these are just some of the more mild side effects that can occur. Alcohol also increases the risk of serious injuries, increases the probability of legal problems and can lead to alcohol poisoning.
With long-term use, alcohol can cause even worse problems. The long-term effects of alcohol can include:
If dependence on alcohol develops, withdrawal symptoms can occur during detox. In severe cases, these symptoms can be potentially deadly.
There are many different reasons why someone may want to stop drinking, and everyone’s journey will be different. Some people decide to quit alcohol because they realize an addiction might be forming. Addiction takes control over your life, affecting your relationships, your career and your future. Even if someone has a functional addiction that allows them to lead a normal life, this form of addiction can easily deteriorate into a more serious situation.
Health concerns are another major reason to stop drinking. Alcohol increases your risk of multiple different diseases and conditions over time. It can also interact with prescription medicines, causing complications. Someone who is becoming more conscious about their health or beginning to develop health problems will often see the benefits of stopping drinking.
Heavy alcohol use is considered to be unhealthy and should be avoided. Heavy alcohol use occurs when someone uses more than a certain amount of alcohol in a day or week. It can also refer to excessive alcohol use in one sitting (binge drinking).
Alcohol is metabolized differently depending on your biological sex, so the definition of heavy drinking varies slightly for men and women. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines heavy drinking for men as consuming four or more drinks in one day or more than 14 drinks in one week; for women, it is defined as consuming three or more drinks in one day or more than seven drinks in one week.
Although everyone’s timeline will vary slightly, the process of quitting alcohol follows a relatively predictable pattern. After your last drink, side effects and symptoms will typically begin emerging after certain periods of time:
Consuming high quantities of alcohol regularly can lead to changes in both your body and brain. Fortunately, you can reverse a lot of these symptoms and restore your health by quitting drinking. Some of the benefits of stopping drinking include:
Quitting alcohol also gives you the chance to improve other areas of your life that may have been negatively impacted by alcohol. In a recent study by The Recovery Village surveying more than 2,000 respondents who wanted to quit:
Ending your relationship with alcohol can start you on a path toward improving your physical and mental health, mending your relationships and rebuilding your finances.
Alcohol withdrawal happens because of how alcohol activates GABA receptors in the brain. These receptors normally suppress brain activity and function. When alcohol is constantly present, the brain reduces the sensitivity of GABA receptors. This helps them function at a normal level that accommodates the extra stimulation alcohol provides.
Withdrawal occurs because when alcohol use is stopped, the GABA receptors in the brain still have reduced sensitivity like they did when alcohol was constantly present. It takes the brain several days to adjust the GABA receptors back to their normal levels. During this period, GABA receptors are unable to calm the brain like they normally would, causing withdrawal symptoms.
The acute withdrawal stage is the first challenge someone detoxing from alcohol will go through. Some of the early withdrawal symptoms will kick in as soon as six hours after your last drink and will grow in intensity as withdrawal progresses. New symptoms may begin at any time until the peak of withdrawal occurs.
In some cases, withdrawal symptoms can lead to seizures and a sometimes fatal condition called delirium tremens (DTs). A recent survey found heavy drinkers (those who binge drink at least five times in a month) are 90% more likely to experience DTs than moderate or light drinkers. If you drink heavily or have more severe alcoholism, it is recommended to seek out a treatment center that can help you detox safely and effectively.
Acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms include:
A full detox often takes between two and ten days, with most people experiencing peak symptoms 36–72 hours into withdrawal. After the initial alcohol withdrawal, you’ve gotten past one of the hardest phases of detox. Most of the symptoms that remain after this phase tend to be more psychological in nature, as the physical effects caused by GABA receptor readjustments are resolved.
You may also feel cravings for alcohol in the months after withdrawal. During this time, it can be helpful to seek out counseling to help support your sobriety and treat any underlying mental health conditions that may be causing your alcoholism.
After physical withdrawal symptoms subside, it’s common for the psychological effects to become more pronounced. Psychological symptoms begin at the same time physical symptoms do, but the physical withdrawal symptoms generally distract from them. Some of the common psychological symptoms felt during this time include:
Alcohol detox refers to the process in which alcohol is eliminated by the body. During detox, the body and brain also adjust to the absence of alcohol. The terms alcohol detox and alcohol withdrawal are often used synonymously.
Alcohol detox can be done on your own at home or under professional supervision in a medical detox facility. However, because alcohol withdrawal can cause serious and potentially fatal symptoms, a person should speak with their doctor before detoxing to see what their individual risk is. Detoxing at home when moderate or severe withdrawal symptoms could occur is not recommended due to the life-threatening complications that can arise.
When someone wants to stop drinking alcohol, the first step is to understand what risks they are likely to encounter given their specific situation. This is best done by speaking with a trusted medical professional. These experts can give advice on what risks specific individuals should expect and what measures can be taken to reduce these risks.
If moderate to severe withdrawal symptoms are expected, medical detox is recommended. These programs help reduce the risks and dangers of detox and provide a more comfortable experience by treating symptoms as they occur.
Quitting alcohol cold turkey can be deadly for some people and very uncomfortable for others. If a serious dependence is present, quitting alcohol suddenly without any medical treatment makes the most serious symptoms more likely to occur. The discomfort and lack of support during the withdrawal process also make this method of stopping alcohol use less likely to be successful.
Professional alcohol addiction treatment will provide a safer, more comfortable detox experience that provides you with peace of mind as you undergo the withdrawal process. If you or someone you love is ready to quit alcohol and begin a healthier, substance-free future, The Recovery Village at Palmer Lake can help. Contact us today to learn more about how our medical detox services and rehab programs can help you begin the journey toward lifelong recovery.
Because alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous – and even kill you – make sure you have medical advice from your doctor or a rehab facility when you decide to stop drinking.
There are many misconceptions about alcoholism that make it sound like an alcoholic is an easy person to spot, however, many alcoholics function effectively and lead relatively normal lives.
An alcohol abuse problem can include binge drinking, having negative consequences such as hangovers with your drinking but continuing anyway, and drinking despite the desire to stop.
In a recent study by The Recovery Village, 44% of respondents reported abusing alcohol in an attempt to ease uncomfortable feelings that stem from underlying anxiety.
Drinking more than three drinks in a single sitting will temporarily cause your blood pressure to rise, but extended binge drinking or regular alcohol consumption can cause a permanent increase in blood pressure.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Alcohol.” MedlinePlus, February 3, 2022. Accessed February 10, 2022.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Alcohol Use and Your Health.” December 29, 2021. Accessed February 10, 2022.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Drinking Levels Defined.” Accessed February 10, 2022.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol’s Effects on the Body.” Accessed February 10, 2022.
Bode, Christiane; Bode, J. Christian. “Alcohol’s Role in Gastrointestinal Tract Disorders.” Alcohol Health & Research World, 1997. Accessed February 10, 2022.
Cassata, Cathy. “Here’s What Happens to Your Body When […] Alcohol for 30 Days.” Healthline, January 10, 2020. Accessed February 10, 2022.
National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. “Alcohol’s Damaging Effects On The Brain.” October 2004. Accessed February 10, 2022.
Jackson, Whitney. “Alcohol-Related Liver Disease.” Merck Manuals, May 2021. Accessed February 10, 2022.
Davies, Martin. “The role of GABA receptors in mediating […]ntral nervous system.” Journal of Psychiatry & Neuroscience, July 2003. Accessed February 10, 2022.
World Health Organization. “Clinical Guidelines for Withdrawal Manag[…]e in Closed Settings.” 2009. Accessed February 10, 2022.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “Alcohol withdrawal.” MedlinePlus, February 4, 2022. Accessed February 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “Substance Abuse Treatment Advisory.” July 2010. Accessed February 10, 2022.
U.S. National Library of Medicine. “How to stop drinking.” MedlinePlus, February 4, 2022. Accessed February 10, 2022.
Drinkaware. “How to stop drinking alcohol completely.” November 18, 2021. Accessed February 10, 2022.