Stopping Drinking Alcohol: Side Effects To Look Out For

If you only drink occasionally or you drink in moderation (under 14 units of alcohol per week), then you most likely won’t notice any side effects when you stop drinking alcohol.

However, if you drink excessive amounts of alcohol, drink frequently, or are dependent on alcohol, then you’ll likely notice a range of side effects when you stop drinking.

Although stopping drinking will benefit you in the long term, alcohol detoxification can be a difficult process, and can take its toll on your mind and body.

But how do you know when you should stop drinking alcohol? And what does an alcohol detox entail? And, more importantly, what are the main side effects and withdrawal symptoms of stopping drinking alcohol?

That’s what we’re going to explore today. Read on to learn more about alcohol detox and alcohol withdrawal symptoms, as well as what support is available to you if you’re alcohol dependent.

Signs You Need To Stop Drinking Alcohol

Alcohol can be a dangerous substance, especially when abused. However, it can sometimes be difficult to spot the signs of alcohol addiction, and therefore, hard to know when you should stop drinking alcohol or seek treatment for alcohol addiction.

It’s possible to hide the signs of alcohol addiction both from yourself and from friends and family. As alcoholism progresses, however, the signs worsen and become more obvious.

If you’re struggling to control your alcohol intake or feel like you can’t function without drinking alcohol, then you likely have alcohol dependence and should get help for your addiction and try to stop drinking.

Here are some major signs that suggest you may have an alcohol problem. However, please bear in mind that these signs alone are not a formal diagnosis – and you should speak to a medical professional to be diagnosed with alcohol use disorder.

Alcohol Is Taking Over Your Life

One of the most obvious signs of alcoholism is that alcohol has begun to take over your life. For example, alcohol can quickly become your priority. You may neglect other responsibilities (for example, going to work or completing household chores) to prioritise drinking alcohol.

You may also stop enjoying hobbies and activities you previously enjoyed, and begin isolating yourself, stopping socialising with your friends and family.

Your work can also be impacted by alcohol – if you’re falling behind in work, being late to work due to hangovers, or simply not turning up to work because of alcohol, then you have an alcohol problem.

If you have begun to structure your routine around drinking or look forward to when you can have your next drink, this is a key sign that you need to stop drinking and get the help you need.

You Struggle To Control Your Alcohol Consumption

Lack of control over your drinking is the most prominent sign that you have a form of an alcohol use disorder, whether it be alcohol dependence or alcohol abuse.

Although alcohol addiction and alcohol abuse are different things, they are both a form of alcohol use disorder. Both are characterised by the lack of control over drinking, but alcohol dependence is the most severe form of alcohol use disorder.

If you struggle to control the amount you drink, how often you drink, when you start drinking or when you stop drinking, then you should assess your drinking habits and seek support.

This includes binge drinking – you don’t have to drink all the time or be an ‘alcoholic’ to have an alcohol abuse problem.

For example, if you go to parties on the weekend but drink way more than you planned, or get blackout drunk, then you may want to stop drinking or lower the amount you drink.

Binge drinking can be dangerous, and can lead to alcohol poisoning – which should be considered a medical emergency, and often requires hospitalisation.

Contact our team of experts today to get the help you need for your alcohol addiction – whether you require residential rehab/ inpatient rehab or outpatient rehab.

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You Experience Memory Lapses When You Drink

If you drink too much alcohol, then you may experience memory lapses or full-on blackouts. If you don’t remember things that happened when you were intoxicated, then you may have a problem and you should lower the amount you drink.

Others Have Noticed Your Drinking Habits

Another sign that you should stop drinking is if other people such as friends, family members, or even colleagues are concerned about your drinking habits. Sometimes, it can be difficult to identify your own problems – but they may be obvious to other people.

If your loved ones have expressed concern about your drinking, then this is a sign that you should make a change, whether it be stopping drinking yourself, or if you have severe dependence, then contacting your GP or an addiction specialist. You’re not alone, and there is help out there for you.

You’re Experiencing Mental Health Problems

Alcohol can worsen existing mental health problems, and even lead to depression and/ or anxiety. If you drink because of mental health problems, then you most likely have a problem.

Likewise, if alcohol is causing mental health problems, then you should stop drinking and get the help you deserve. Alcohol affects the chemicals in your brain and can worsen your mood and feelings of anxiety.

You Have Alcohol Withdrawal Symptoms After Stopping Drinking

If you are dependent on alcohol, you will experience unpleasant alcohol withdrawal symptomswhen you stop drinking, which can make you want to drink more.

With more severe alcohol addictions, symptoms may begin as soon as a few hours after your last drink – but in most cases, they generally begin to present after a day or two of stopping drinking.

If you’re experiencing alcohol withdrawal syndrome, then you shouldn’t start drinking again. However, this can be difficult – which is why many people benefit more from undergoing an inpatient detox with medical supervision.

Some people will only experience mild withdrawal symptoms, but others may experience severe withdrawal symptoms. Read ‘What Are The Side Effects Of Stopping Drinking Alcohol’ to learn more about alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

What Is An Alcohol Detox?

Alcohol detox is essentially when you stop drinking alcohol – during alcohol detox, you’ll have no alcohol so your body can free itself of the substance and flush the alcohol out of your body.

It can be hard to detox ‘cold turkey’, which is when you suddenly stop drinking without professional help.

If you detox without the right support, you could end up relapsing. This is because you may be tempted to drink, or the withdrawal symptoms may be too much for you to manage alone.

Many people prefer to detox from alcohol in a medical environment with medical supervision – this is known as a medical detox or a medically supervised detox.

During medical detox, you’ll live in a rehab facility throughout your detox, and all access to alcohol will be cut off to relieve any temptation. You may be offered detox medication such as Acamprosate or Disulfiram to ease the withdrawal symptoms or to stop the compulsion to drink.

The alcohol withdrawal timeline can vary, but the general rule of thumb is that the more severe your addiction, the longer it will take for you to successfully detox from alcohol – and the more severe symptoms of withdrawal will be.

Alcohol detox aims at dealing with the physical aspect of addiction rather than the social, behavioural, and psychological aspects of addiction. This is why detoxification alone isn’t always enough to overcome alcoholism – alcohol therapy and additional support are often required too.

What Are The Side Effects Of Stopping Drinking Alcohol?

If you are dependent on alcohol, you’ll likely experience unpleasant and uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking. However, withdrawal can affect anybody who drinks excessive amounts of alcohol.

The reason you experience withdrawal symptoms when you stop drinking is because of the way alcohol affects your central nervous system. Alcohol has a suppressing effect on your brain and affects how your brain works over time.

When you drink alcohol, the levels of the neurotransmitter GABA are raised – which leads to you feeling calm and sometimes even euphoric. It also lowers glutamate levels, which decreases excitability.

However, drinking excessively or regularly can cause your body to get used to these changes. This can make it difficult to increase GABA and decrease glutamate levels over time, causing a chemical imbalance in your brain. This means that your body needs alcohol to feel normal.

Alcohol Cravings

When you stop drinking, your body will crave alcohol. This is because your body is dependent on alcohol – it needs alcohol to function. When you’re detoxing from alcohol, it’s important to not give in to these cravings, as the withdrawal symptoms will pass over time.

Attending rehab in a residential facility can reduce the risk of you giving in to these alcohol cravings, as at a rehab treatment centre, all access to alcohol will be revoked. This means that the physical temptation won’t be there.

Mental Health

Your mental health can be affected while you’re detoxing from alcohol. When you stop drinking and go through alcohol withdrawal, you may notice that your anxiety levels are much higher, or you feel depressed.

If you already have existing mental health problems, these may feel worse for a while. However, your mental health will likely improve over time after you stop drinking.

Alcohol withdrawal can also cause mood swings and irritability – you may lose your temper over minor things, or go from being hyperactive to being miserable in a short space of time.

This is why it’s so important that you have the right support system in place – having friends and family to talk to can make the world of difference.

Blood Pressure

Over time, drinking heavily can lead to hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. This means that many alcoholics are hypertensive.

Evidence suggests that stopping drinking is a great way to lower your blood pressure in the long term. Lowering your blood pressure can quickly reduce the risk of further complications down the road – for example, the risk of strokes and heart attacks.

Delirium Tremens

Although this is uncommon, it’s possible to experience delirium tremens when you stop drinking alcohol. This is considered the most serious side effect of alcohol withdrawal, and generally requires hospitalisation and can be fatal.

Most people with acute alcohol withdrawal symptoms and delirium tremens will need to be hospitalised and receive the right medical treatment, as it can be fatal if not managed correctly.

Alcohol withdrawal delirium includes vivid delusions and hallucinations which can be distressing. Delirium tremens can occur within two to three days after your last drink.

If you think you are displaying chronic alcohol withdrawal signs or delirium tremens symptoms, you should seek medical assistance as soon as possible.

Support For Stopping Drinking

Quitting alcohol can be tough at the best of times – but it can feel like an uphill battle if you try to stop drinking without support, which is why many people choose to contact alcohol support services and receive addiction treatment at an alcohol rehab facility.

You can receive addiction support either privately or through the NHS. To learn more about alcohol and the NHS, check out this page.

Rehab typically consists of three stages: detoxification, addiction therapy, and aftercare. Detoxification deals with physical addiction, whereas therapy can help to deal with psychological addiction, as well as the behavioural and social aspects of addiction too.

Some forms of therapy found in addiction treatment include CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy), counselling, group therapy, and interpersonal therapy – although many rehab clinics have more options.

Secondary care aims at providing you support once you finish rehab – ultimately aiming to prevent relapse. Some forms of aftercare include group therapy, counselling, and support groups – for example, Alcoholics Anonymous.

At Help4Addiction, we are in contact with local rehab facilities all over England and Wales – and can find the best place for you to attend rehab.

Our friendly team will take the time to listen to your story to find the right treatment plan for you and your circumstances. Have a chat with us today if you wish to quit drinking and begin your alcohol recovery journey.

About Author

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn

Nicholas Conn is a leading industry addiction expert who runs the UK’s largest addiction advisory service and is regularly featured in the national press, radio and TV. He is the founder and CEO of a drug and alcohol rehab center called Help4addiction, which was founded in 2015. He has been clean himself since 2009 and has worked in the Addiction and Rehab Industry for over a decade. Nick is dedicated to helping others recover and get treatment for drug and alcohol abuse. In 2013, he released a book ‘The Thin White’ line that is available on Amazon.

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