Alcohol is bad for your health, especially for your liver, your heart, your digestive tract, and your brain. Your reasons for quitting may have nothing to do with health. Maybe your drinking is hurting your relationships or career. Maybe you are tired of waking up in strange places with mysterious dents in your car. Whatever your reasons for getting sober, you will likely see some health benefits as well.
Just what those benefits are depends on how much you drank and for how long. If you’re suffering from liver cirrhosis or Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, there’s not a lot you can do for your health, although you may still want to quit for other reasons. Those conditions typically develop after decades of heavy drinking. Most people will see their health improve considerably once they stop drinking.
It’s important to quit drinking safely. If you have been drinking heavily for a long time, it may be a good idea to detox in a clinic where they can safely manage the DTs. Once you have safely detoxed, you should notice some immediate improvements. For example, many people had forgotten what it felt like to wake up without a hangover. Exactly what causes a hangover is still a bit of a medical mystery. Various studies point to dehydration, low blood sugar, and a buildup of acetaldehyde, an intermediate product of alcohol metabolism. Acetaldehyde is poisonous and is responsible for much of the damage alcohol does to the body. Waking up without a hangover not only feels better, but it signals the absence of these three unhealthy conditions.
Other conditions start improving in a matter of weeks. For example, heavy drinking can cause fatty liver disease, which is a precursor to hepatitis and cirrhosis of the liver. Fatty liver disease can start to heal relatively quickly after you stop drinking.
Alcohol also suppresses your immune system through dehydration, malnutrition, and by lowering your white blood cell count. When you quit drinking, your immune system starts improving. You may notice you become less vulnerable to colds and other illnesses.
Your sleep should improve as well as your digestion. Alcohol prevents you from sleeping deeply, which impairs your thinking, prevents you from healing, and puts you in a bad mood. Many people experience insomnia in the beginning of recovery, but eventually your sleep will improve, which will make you feel much better. Also, as your digestive tract heals, you will absorb nutrients more efficiently, which will make you healthier in general.
Castle Craig is one of the most established and respected addiction rehab centres in the UK. Castle Craig treats alcoholism and drug addiction as an illness and promote abstinence as essential for long-lasting recovery. We help patients recover through an intensive, personalised programme that combines medical treatment, 12 Step therapy, CBT and other psychiatric therapies and complementary therapies. For information, call our 24 hour free confidential phone-line: 0808 256 3732. From outside the UK please call: +44 1721 788 006 (normal charges apply).
Page last reviewed and medically fact-checked | January 29, 2020