Over the coronavirus pandemic, more people have been drinking harmful levels of alcohol. Public Health England discovered that the number of ‘high risk’ drinkers has doubled, at a time when people are dealing with more stress, loss and uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
If you are worried that your alcohol consumption has been increasing over the pandemic, 'Go Sober for October' could be an opportunity for you to pause and readdress your relationship with alcohol.*
Within this blog, we will look at the impact that heavy drinking can have on the body and mind. We will also outline the week-by-week benefits that many people experience when they give up alcohol for a month.
The effects of drinking harmful levels of alcohol
Alcohol is toxic and can damage the whole of the body, particularly the brain and liver. It can also seriously impact mental health. Alongside harming the body and mind, drinking heavily can put a strain on many other areas of your life, including your career and relationships.
Some of the common effects of heavy drinking include:
- Feeling sick, nauseous and possibly being injured the following day
- Feeling guilty, ashamed and anxious the morning after
- Neglecting responsibilities and relationships
- Not taking part in activities and events you usually enjoy
- Being less able to cope with work
- Spending more time alone
Readdressing your relationship with alcohol
When you cut back or stop drinking alcohol, you have the chance to pause and evaluate the impact your alcohol consumption has been having on your life.
If you have been drinking heavily, it gives you the opportunity to see how your health and wellbeing has been affected, as your body and mind start to recover from the damage caused. And, by taking the time to think about the destructive effect alcohol has been having upon your life, you put yourself in a strong position to change your relationship with alcohol going forward.
The week-by-week benefits of quitting alcohol for a month
If you do choose to take part in 'Go Sober for October', some of the changes you can expect to see include:
Within one week
- Better sleep - when you drink, you typically miss out on important rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. When you stop drinking, you will get better quality sleep, which will make you more productive during the days. You will also find that you are in better control of your emotions and behaviour
- More hydrated - when you drink alcohol, you typically lose around four times as much liquid as what you actually consumed. After a week away from alcohol, you may start to notice that you have fewer headaches. You will also feel less sluggish and have more energy throughout the day
Within a fortnight
After two weeks off alcohol, you will continue to reap the benefits of better sleep and hydration. You will also see the following:
- Reduced acid reflux - alcohol is known to irritate the stomach lining, which can cause heart burn. After a fortnight away from alcohol, you may notice that this stops or reduces
- Weight loss – if you were to stop drinking around six 175ml glasses of wine per week, you would save 1920 calories in the first two weeks, and 2160 if you’d stopped drinking around six pints of lager
Within three weeks
- Reduced blood pressure – when you drink heavily, your blood pressure can rise. After three or four weeks away from alcohol, you may find that your blood pressure starts to reduce. By keeping your blood pressure in check, this can help to reduce the risk of further health problems in the future
Within four weeks
- Hydrated skin – as a result of your boosted hydration levels, your skin will look and feel healthier and plumper. When you are better hydrated, this can also reduce skin problems such as dandruff and eczema
- Improved liver function – after four weeks away from alcohol, your liver will start to shed excess fat, which can help to improve how it functions. If your liver hasn’t been too badly affected by alcohol, it is able to recover within four to eight weeks
*Why people with a physical addiction shouldn’t take part in 'Go Sober for October'
When someone has a physical addiction to alcohol, it is not recommended that they stop drinking alcohol without seeking medical advice and guidance first due to the possibility of severe withdrawal symptoms.
If you are physically addicted to alcohol, it is best for you to speak to a medical professional before taking any further steps. When struggling with alcoholism, withdrawing and recovering within a rehabilitative setting is the safest and most effective approach for you to take so that you are able to detox in a secure environment and have the professional support that you need to start your recovery journey.
While the current coronavirus restrictions and social distancing measures are in place, we are offering online support to both new and current patients. We continue to offer access to inpatient services where this is required. For more information on our online therapy service, please visit our Priory Connect page or read our latest online therapy blog. For the latest information on how Priory are responding to coronavirus, and keeping our patients and staff safe, please visit our COVID-19 preparedness blog. You can also find out about our approach to addiction treatment during COVID-19 by accessing our dedicated page.