Giving Up Drinking Alcohol – All You Need To Know

Giving Up Drinking Alcohol

If you're thinking about giving up drinking here's a brief summary of everything you'll need to know.

First of all, let’s not forget that alcohol is a drug – and a pretty powerful one at that! The definition of a drug is “a medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body”.

There are various different classifications of drugs of which alcohol is officially classified as a depressant. That is in spite of the stimulant effect it can initially have. Let me explain, in very simple terms, the psychological effects it has on the body.

When you take your first sip of alcohol it stimulates the brain to release a chemical called dopamine. This is the chemical we associate with pleasure and is what gives you that initial high. But the high is only very temporary ...

Giving Up Drinking – The Effects Of Alcohol On The Brain

You see alcohol affects the brain in other ways too. Keep drinking and it starts to disrupt the natural and sensitive chemical balance and causes us to think, feel and act differently. We suddenly feel, less anxious, confident and start to lose inhibitions.

Still sounding good? Well, what goes up must come down and as we carry on drinking the effects then start to impact more and more on brain function. It’s now that we begin to lose control of speech and start to slur our words, we become more impulsive. Our reactions and mobility become impaired, our memory becomes impeded and we start to be consumed by all sorts of negative thoughts and emotions. At this point we can start to become angry, aggressive, anxious and depressed. The initial high is a thing of the past and we’re on a downward spiral of emotions.

Continuing to drink past this point and we put ourselves at risk of alcohol poisoning which is potentially fatal.

Give Up Drinking

You think we’d learn wouldn’t you but, when you drink regularly, your brain comes to crave the initial high that alcohol give it. It associates drinking with that release of dopamine and subsequent good feeling. This is the cause of your craving for a drink – especially at particular times of the day when your body comes to expect it.

So, we begin to drink more and more to satisfy the cravings. Gradually the brain then also begins to become less sensitive to alcohol so we have to drink that little bit more to get the good feeling … and a little bit more …. and a bit more - you get the picture. We are now addicted to alcohol and the brain is placing us under more and more pressure to give it that shot of drink it craves.

When heavy drinking becomes a habit the poisonous nature of alcohol starts to have an effect on our organs and functions.

Giving Up Drinking – The Effects Of Alcohol On The Body

The Brain & Nervous System: The effect of alcohol on the brain results in damage to brain cells by them burning out. This causes a slowing down of reactions and shrinkage of the part of the brain called the hippocampus. Over time heavy drinking can result in thiamine deficiency which can produce a condition called “wet brain” and causes persistent confusion, eye movement issues plus coordination, learning and memory problems.

The brains craving for alcohol also causes the addiction officially called alcohol use disorder or AUD. It’s at this stage that we lose control and find ourselves drinking when we shouldn’t, taking risks to get access to alcohol and prioritising drinking over what should be far more important area of our life (job, relationship, health etc).

Heart: Drinking alcohol results in a temporary increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Long term heavy drinking will mean that the heart rate remains at this increased rate which puts extra pressure on the heart muscle which weaken it. It also gives us high blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat. This results in a significantly increased risk of heart attack and stokes.

Liver: The liver’s function is to filter our toxins but each time it filters out alcohol some of its cells will die. New cells can be produced but continued heavy and regular drinking can impact on the livers ability to reproduce cells which results in more cells dying than are being produced. In effect it starts to destroy the liver.

Pancreas: Free radicals and toxins from alcohol attack he pancreas and cause a significantly increased risk of extremely painful and potentially fatal pancreatitis.

Immune System: The immune system is weakened leaving us far more susceptible to other health issues.

Cancer: There’s a proven increased risk of certain types of cancer through drinking too much.

Apart from that – alcohol’s great!!!!

Give Up Drinking Alcohol

I'm probably beginning to convince you that giving up drinking alcohol it the way to go but I’m not going to dictate to you that you must stop and never drink again. As with most things, the occasional glass is not going to do any harm. Nor is that night out. Drinking is fine … as long as you keep in within medical guidelines and you remain in control at all times.

It’s takes a while for the full affects of addiction to alcohol to build up but once you recognise a few signs, once you realise that you’re drinking a little too much or too often or if you find yourself looking forward to having a drink a little too much then perhaps it’s time to take action and regain your control before it becomes a real and long term problem. If you can relate to this then you shoul dreally consider giving up drinking.

What Happens When You're Giving Up Drinking?

The brain craves alcohol to make you feel good and if you decide to not satisfy its cravings it’s going to react. It’s not going down without a fight!

You make the decision to give up drinking and not to have any alcohol today. No problem in the morning because you don’t normally have a drink then and the brain is not expecting it. Same in the afternoon … still no problem. But the brain adapts to the depressant nature of alcohol by producing glutamate which is a chemical which causes the brain to become excited by the expectation of the drug that it craves and it will stay in this excited state until it gets it’s alcohol fix. So, as soon as you reach the evening the brain begins to get excited and starts asking you “where is it”, it then start yelling and screaming until you either give in to the craving and have a drink or stick to your guns and go against what the brain is yelling at you. And if you don’t give in to the alcohol it wants it’s going to react and that means withdrawal symptoms.

As to what symptoms you’re going to get no one can predict and the intensity will vary depending on what your regular alcohol intake has been. But you can look forwards to any of the following:

  • Feeling anxious
  • Uncontrollable shaking
  • Increased heart rate
  • Unpredictable moods
  • Not being able to sleep well
  • Cold sweats
  • Headaches
  • Nausea

In extremes at can result in what we know as the DTs. This is a very serious condition called alcohol withdrawal delirium and requires urgent medical attention but is rare.

To be honest at least half of us are going to get some alcohol withdrawal symptoms to varying degrees when giving up drinking. They will typically start at any time from between 6 hours and 48 hours after our last drink.

the good news is that they are short term only. Once the brain settles down to life without alcohol it adjusts and the symptoms fade away. Typically, they will be at their worst from day 1 to day 3 and you will start to feel better after around day 5 to 7 although you may find sleeping habits and suchlike may take a while longer to fully adapt to the new sober you.

Give Up Drinking Alcohol You Choose

Giving Up Drinking - Is it Worth it?

OH YES! Giving up drinking alcohol is worth every bit of the battle you're going to go through.

Your body becomes healthy, your sleeping improves, you have more energy, more time, more money.

You’re ridding your body of a depressant drug so your mental health is going to improve and you’re going to have more passion for life.

Most of all you’ll find a new freedom. A freedom away from addiction and craving and that’s a wonderful way to live.

But ... giving up drinking is up to you. We can help you every step of you but it's your choice and only you can decide to do it.