How Taking a Break from Alcohol Benefits Your Health 

Dr. William Beecroft

| 3 min read

By: Dr. William Beecroft, M.D., D.L.F.A.P.A., medical director of behavioral health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan 
Alcohol negatively affects physical and mental healthin many ways, especially if consumed in excess, routinely or habitually. The reverse is also true, however – sobriety or cutting alcohol out of a lifestyle can have significant, positive effects on overall health and wellness. 

How Alcohol Affects the Body and Mind 

Alcohol interferes with multiple systems and vital functions the body needs to maintain a good level of health. Alcohol has noted effects on the cardiovascular, endocrine, digestive, immune, and pulmonary systems, and negative effects on brain functions and mental health. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol-associated damage can occur in the heart, brain, oral cavity, lungs, muscles, bones, gastrointestinal tract, liver and pancreas. 

Drinking Can Increase the Likelihood of some Diseases and Cancers 

Diseases that can be caused by alcohol abuse and overuse include: 
  • Cardiomyopathy 
  • Arrhythmias of the heart 
  • Stroke 
  • High blood pressure 
  • Fatty liver disease 
  • Hepatitis 
  • Cirrhosis of the liver 
  • Reduced immunity to pneumonia and tuberculosis 
  • Increased risk of cancer 

How Sobriety Affects the Body and Mind 

Common and expected effects of sobriety or a decreased reliance on alcohol may include:
  • Increased energy: Sobriety results in an increase in wakefulness, mental focus and clarity, and a decrease in sleep issues that may have been causing a lack of energy. 
  • Improved sleep: Cutting alcohol can improve sleep by improving or reducing sleep disorders, insomnia, disrupted or too-light of sleep and metabolic issues caused by the digestion of alcohol during sleeping hours. 
  • Clearer skin: Sobriety will help to clear up alcohol-related skin and hydration issues. This means one can expect to see decreased redness, flushing, and skin issues caused by alcohol-related liver conditions, such as jaundice, hyperpigmentation, or photosensitive skin, according to a study on the dermatological effects of alcohol
  • Improved relationships: Alcohol can cause irritability and a loss of responsibility, punctuality, and negative effects on our general physical, mental and emotional well-being that can cause stress and friction in relationships.
  • A healthier weight: The consumption and abuse of alcohol is tied to weight gain and retention. Soon after stopping drinking many people start to lose weight and feel better at the same time. 
  • Better mood and mental state: Extended and routine use of alcohol can be tied to higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression. Stopping the consumption of alcohol will bring better focus, mental clarity and stamina, and improved mental health. 
  • Money saved: Alcohol is often an expensive element of a lifestyle or budget, especially if alcohol is being consumed in excess or in social settings.
Not only will these positive effects of sobriety or decreased consumption of alcohol make us feel better and improve health, but abstaining from alcohol can decrease the likelihood of developing alcohol-related diseases and cancers, and some damaged organs may be able to heal or self-repair. 

Reassessing Alcohol 

Some individuals may find a need to reassess or change their relationship with alcohol. They may also find themselves to be “sober curious.” Here are some simple tips or tricks to help avoid or eliminate alcohol: 
  • Replace time spent drinking with a healthier habit, like exercise or games 
  • Replace alcoholic drinks with other drinks like sparkling waters, teas and zero-proof non-alcoholic drinks 
  • Take a break from social settings that may increase the temptation to drink 
  • Take notes of the physical and mental changes felt during the break 

SAMHSA National Helpline 

This is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders. 
The number is 1-800-662-HELP (4357).
Dr. William Beecroft, MD, DLFAPA, is medical director of behavioral health at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. Dr. Beecroft is board-certified in general psychiatry, consultation-liaison and geriatrics specialties. He serves on the Michigan Suicide Prevention Commission

A Healthier Michigan is sponsored by Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, a nonprofit, independent licensee of the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association.
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