What to expect when you stop drinking
There are many benefits to your health if you cut out alcohol completely. This guide takes you through what you can expect when you stop drinking, in the short and long-term.
Whether you are stopping for good, or just having some time off, it’s a good idea to be prepared for the changes you may see when you stop drinking.
But first, if you think you may be experiencing any of the symptoms of alcohol dependence, you should consult your doctor or another medical professional about it as soon as possible, as alcohol withdrawal can be dangerous. There are also a number of national alcohol support services that you can go to for advice.
If you’re concerned you may be alcohol dependant take our confidential alcohol self-assessment test.
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. So while you might feel relaxed after a drink, in the long run alcohol can contribute to feelings of depression and anxiety. 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.
Regular drinking can affect the quality of your sleep making you feel tired and sluggish. This is because drinking disrupts your sleep cycle.1
When you drink alcohol before bed you may fall into deep sleep quicker. This is why some people find drinking alcohol helps them get to sleep. But as the night goes on you spend less time in this deep sleep and more time than usual in the less restful, Rapid Eye Movement (REM) stage of sleep2.
This 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 if you reduce the amount of alcohol you drink, your skin and eyes should soon start to look brighter.
A pint of lager can contain the same amount of calories as a slice of pizza, or a large glass of wine the same 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. Drinking alcohol also reduces the amount of fat your body burns for energy.
Not drinking at all is likely to make it easier to maintain a healthy weight.
If you are overweight and you regularly drink alcohol, you should find that your weight falls noticeably if you reduce the amount you drink each week. And you can maintain your healthier weight by not starting to drink more again.
Giving up drinking will also have a big impact on your liver and should reduce the chances of developing liver disease.
Find out more about alcohol-related liver disease.
The less you drink the less risk there is to your long-term health. When you stop drinking you lower the risk of developing a range of health problems, such as:
If you want to experience the positive benefits of drinking less, a good way is to try having alcohol-free days.
Just a few days off a week could be enough to help you see the positive benefits, so you’ll be more likely to reduce your drinking over a longer period of time.
We have lots more useful hints about how to reduce your drinking.
Drinkchat is our free online chat service. Our trained advisors are on hand between 10am-2pm, Monday to Friday, to provide confidential advice.
If you can’t contact Drinkchat in those hours, or would prefer to talk to someone on the phone, you can call Drinkline on 0300 123 1110 (weekdays 9am–8pm, weekends 11am–4pm) and speak to a trained adviser.
 Roehrs, T. and Roth, T., (2001) Sleep, sleepiness, and alcohol use. Alcohol research and Health, 25(2), pp.101-109.
 (3) HOBSON, R.M. and MAUGHAN, R.J., 2010. Hydration status and the diuretic action of a small dose of alcohol.Alcohol and Alcoholism, 45 (4), pp. 366-373. ISSN 1464-3502 Available at: https://alcalc.oxfordjournals.org/content/45/4/366
 Bagnardi, V., Rota, M., Botteri, E., et al. (2013). Light alcohol drinking and cancer: a meta-analysis. Annals of oncology, 24(2), pp.301-308.
 Robert S. O ’ Shea, Srinivasan Dasarathy and Arthur J. McCullough. Alcoholic Liver Disease Am J Gastroenterol 2010; 105:14–32; doi: 10.1038/ajg.2009.593; Available at: https://www.nature.com/ajg/journal/v105/n1/full/ajg2009593a.html
 Savolainen, V, T, Liesto, k, Mannikko, A. et al. (1993) Alcohol consumption and Alcoholic liver disease: evidence of a threshold level of effects of ethanol. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental research. 17, 1112-1117. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1530-0277.1993.tb05673.x
 Xin, X, He, J, Frontini, M. et al. (2001) Effects of alcohol reduction on blood pressure: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Hypertension, 38 (5), 1112-1117. Available at: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1530-0277.1993.tb05673.x
 Roerecke, M. & Rehm, J. (2010) Irregular heavy drinking occasions and risk of ischemic heart disease: a systematic review of meta-analysis. American Journal of Epidemiology, 171, 633-644.
 K Anderson, V Nisenblat & R Norman 2010; ‘Lifestyle factors in people seeking infertility treatment – A review’. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Vol.50, Issue 1, pp8--202