What to expect when you stop drinking
There are many benefits to your health if you cut out alcohol completely. Here’s what you can expect, in the short- and long-term.
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If you’ve taken the decision to stop drinking alcohol, you will be in good company. Almost one in seven adults (14%) in the UK never drink alcohol.1
Or if you’re just thinking about taking a break from alcohol, for your own reasons or as part of a challenge, you will be joining millions of others.
Whether you are stopping for good, or just having some time off, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the changes you could see. But first, if you think you may be dependent on alcohol, you should consult your doctor or another medical professional.
Being dependent on alcohol can cause physical withdrawal symptoms like shaking, sweating or nausea. If you have these symptoms if you miss a drinking session, it can be dangerous to stop drinking completely too quickly without proper support.
When you’re ready to stop, there are lots of benefits - from reducing your blood pressure and better sleep in the short-term, to many other important longer-term health benefits.
Here are some of the improvements you could see from cutting out alcohol, in the short- and long-term.
It may sound obvious, but stopping drinking means you will no longer suffer from hangovers. The nausea, headaches, or tiredness you may have felt the morning after drinking could be replaced with improved mood as well as feelings of productivity.
Regular, heavy drinking interferes with chemicals in the brain that are vital for good mental health.2 So, while you might initially feel relaxed after a drink, alcohol can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety. And stopping drinking could make feelings of stress easier to deal with.
If you stop drinking completely, one of the first things you notice should be improved energy levels, better sleep and finding it easier to wake up in the morning.
Regular drinking can affect the quality of your sleep making you feel tired and sluggish during the day. This is because drinking alcohol disrupts your sleep cycle.3
Although some people find drinking alcohol helps them get to sleep more quickly, the quality of sleep is affected. Alcohol disrupts the important Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep, which can leave you feeling tired the next day – no matter how long you stay in bed.
Drinking less alcohol can have a positive impact on your appearance - and your skin in particular.
Alcohol dehydrates your body, including the skin, and this happens every time you drink. This can cause your skin and eyes to look dull. But stopping drinking could help your skin’s hydration.
If you’re overweight and regularly drink alcohol, you should find that your weight falls noticeably if you stop drinking.4 And not drinking at all will make it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
For example, a typical pint of lager contains the same number of calories as a slice of pizza, and a large glass of wine the same as an ice cream sundae.
Alcoholic drinks contain lots of ‘empty’ calories, meaning your body doesn’t get any nutritional value from alcohol. In fact, alcohol contains almost as many calories as pure fat.
Good health is a really important factor in how satisfied we feel with our lives.5
And by taking the decision to stop drinking, you could reduce your risk of developing many serious alcohol-related diseases.
Alcohol is linked to seven different types of cancer including bowel cancer, breast cancer, liver cancer and mouth cancer.6,7 Giving up drinking could also have a big, positive impact on your liver and should reduce the chances of developing liver disease, as long as it hasn't already been irreversibly damaged.8,9
Your level of risk will depend on how much alcohol you have drunk over the long-term, as well as other factors like family history and lifestyle. But, as drinking even at low levels increases the risk of these diseases, deciding to stop drinking completely is a positive choice.
Drinking alcohol also causes other long-term health problems. Stopping drinking lowers the risk of:
Stopping drinking could make your life feel brighter in all kinds of ways, as well as helping your long-term health. If you’re ready to stop, arming yourself with strategies and tips can help you or a loved one take small steps towards big results.
If you’re worried about your drinking, get in touch with your local GP surgery, who will be able to help.
You can also search for alcohol support services in your area using the below links:
If you’re simply looking to speak to someone on the phone or chat online for more advice on your own or someone else’s drinking, get in touch with Drinkchat or Drinkline.
Drinkchat is a free online chat service with trained advisors offering confidential advice. The service is available from 9am-2pm on weekdays.
Drinkline is a free, confidential helpline available from 9am – 8pm on weekdays, and 11am – 4pm at the weekend. Call 0300 123 1110.
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Arming yourself with strategies and tips can help you or a loved one take small steps towards big results.
Last Reviewed: 18th November 2021
Next Review due: 18th November 2024
 Sari, Y. (2017). Commentary: Targeting NMDA receptor and serotonin transporter for the treatment of comorbid alcohol dependence and depression. Alcoholism, Clinical and Experimental Research, 41(2), 275-278.
 Kwok, A., Dordevic, A.L., Paton, G., Page, M.J. and Truby, H. (2019). Effect of alcohol consumption on food energy intake: a systematic review and meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition, 121(5), 481-495.
 Bagnardi, V., Rota, M., Botteri, E., Tramacere, I., Islami, F., Fedirko, V., ... & La Vecchia, C. (2015). Alcohol consumption and site-specific cancer risk: a comprehensive dose–response meta-analysis. British Journal of Cancer, 112(3), 580-593.
 Papadimitriou, N., Markozannes, G., Kanellopoulou, A., Critselis, E., Alhardan, S., Karafousia, V., ... & Tsilidis, K. K. (2021). An umbrella review of the evidence associating diet and cancer risk at 11 anatomical sites. Nature Communications, 12(1), 1-10.
 Zhang, C., Qin, Y. Y., Chen, Q., Jiang, H., Chen, X. Z., Xu, C. L., ... & Zhou, Y. H. (2014). Alcohol intake and risk of stroke: a dose–response meta-analysis of prospective studies. International Journal of Cardiology, 174(3)
 Roerecke, M., Kaczorowski, J., Tobe, S. W., Gmel, G., Hasan, O. S., & Rehm, J. (2017). The effect of a reduction in alcohol consumption on blood pressure: a systematic review and meta-analysis. The Lancet Public Health, 2(2), e108-e120.