If you’ve been drinking regularly for a while and you’re considering quitting, there are a few things to think about before going cold-turkey. What happens when you stop drinking? A lot. The benefits of quitting are many. Your immune system will be more effective. You’ll feel better, sleep better, be more clear-minded, have more energy, and your health, over-all, will improve dramatically. These benefits are evident after you have already quit drinking. But what happens before that – when you actually stop drinking? What do you need to know before you stop?
When consumed regularly, alcohol takes a toll on the body and mind. Our bodies are fantastically resilient, and they do adapt to regular alcohol consumption. In fact, over time, the body and mind can become dependent on alcohol, and tolerance for alcohol increases with regular drinking. This means, at some point, a drinker will notice that more alcohol is needed in order to get the effect they used to experience early on in their drinking.
What Happens When You Quit
When a pattern of drinking is disrupted, intentionally or unintentionally, the body and mind must adapt yet again. Withdrawal symptoms occur hours or days after stopping alcohol and they may be mild to severe and, sometimes, life-threatening. Nausea, vomiting, changes in blood pressure and heart rate, diarrhea, dizziness, sweating, headaches, anxiety, insomnia, mood swings, muscle cramps, and tremors are common. Seizures and hallucinations may also occur.
Detoxing at home is possible, however the danger in trying to guess what your own withdrawal will be like is that you could, in fact, experience more severe symptoms than you expected. If you struggle with chronic health conditions, take prescription medications, use recreational drugs or use prescription drugs recreationally, alcohol detox can be especially risky, even life-threatening. You may begin self-detoxing, then return to alcohol when you get very uncomfortable. Worse, even, you may get too sick to ask for help. If you ask a friend or family member to watch over you, you put them in a precarious, difficult position and, unless they are a medical professional or addiction specialist, they might not know how to identify signs of danger.
When you are ready to stop drinking, consult with an addiction specialist. Alcohol detox in a treatment setting might be advisable. A supportive environment can provide you with the clinical and medical support and supervision that you need to stay safe. Prescription medications, supplements, healthy foods, rest, and mental health counseling can ease the symptoms of withdrawal and deliver you whole and safe into sobriety.