For some people, the reasons to stop drinking are obvious. They may have a health problem such as liver disease or heart disease and their doctor has advised quitting. They may have had a brush with the law, such as a fight or DUI. It may be obvious that drinking is hurting them in other ways. However, there are many kinds of alcohol use disorders and the advantages of sobriety may or may not be clear. If you don’t have an obvious reason to stop drinking, here are several reasons to consider.
Alcohol ages you prematurely.
Alcohol dehydrates you, which means it also dehydrates your skin. This doesn’t make much of a difference in the short term, but over the years, the skin becomes less elastic, drier, and more wrinkled. By the time someone is 40, this can make a big difference.
Alcohol increases your risk of many health problems.
Most people are aware that alcohol is bad for your liver. Your liver has the hard job of filtering the alcohol out of your blood. During that process, it turns alcohol into a toxic chemical called acetaldehyde, which damages liver tissue, which can lead to fatty liver disease, alcoholic hepatitis, and cirrhosis. Alcohol can also lead to high blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. Fewer people are aware that excessive drinking is a risk factor for cancer and that drinking and smoking together increases your cancer risk more than either alone.
It gets harder to quit the longer you drink.
Alcohol is one of the hardest substances to quit. By some estimates, more than 90 percent of people who try to quit drinking relapse at least once before they are able to stay sober for a long time. Alcohol is both addictive and easy to get. Once physical dependence develops, quitting cold turkey can be dangerous. If you think your drinking might be a problem, it’s a good idea to at least give sobriety a try. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to quit.
Alcohol increases your risk of death.
There are several ways drinking can be fatal in addition to the health problems alcohol causes. It can be directly fatal, as when people die of alcohol poisoning. Drinking too much too quickly can lower your breathing, heart rate, and body temperature to dangerous levels. About 2200 Americans die from alcohol poisoning every year. Alcohol is also responsible for more than 10,000 fatal car crashes every year. In all, more than 80,000 deaths from various causes are attributed to alcohol each year.
Alcohol increases your risk of dementia.
Studies have shown that heavy drinking increases your risk of dementia for several reasons. One is the presence of acetaldehyde, the toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism mentioned above. People who drink heavily for decades may develop Wernicke-Korsakoff’s Syndrome, which is characterized by severe confusion and memory impairment. There also appears to be risk from the vascular damage caused by alcohol. One study found that about 40 percent of cases of early onset dementia were directly attributable to excessive drinking.
Alcohol disturbs your sleep.
The cumulative effects of sleep loss are massive. It leads to fatigue, more frequent illnesses, poor memory, and concentration, increased anxiety, and can lead to cravings for relapse. Many people believe alcohol helps them sleep, but this isn’t true. While it may help you fall asleep, you don’t sleep as deeply and you wake up more frequently, often feeling sick. Alcohol prevents you from reaching restorative levels of REM sleep. One of the first things people notice when they quit drinking is the immediate improvement in the quality of their sleep. They wake up feeling more rested and feeling great because they’re not hungover.
Alcohol increases your risk of depression.
People with depression or anxiety often use alcohol to cope with their symptoms. It can temporarily help you relax and turn down the volume on an overactive and critical brain. It can even give you a bit of an energy boost. However, in a few hours you feel worse than ever, with your anxiety returning and your blood sugar crashing, leading to irritability, confusion, and depressed mood. The more you rely on alcohol to feel better, the more depressed you will get.
Alcohol makes you gain weight.
Alcohol has a lot of calories. A glass of red wine has over 100 calories. That may not seem like much, but it adds up. Even just two drinks a day adds up to an extra 1400 calories a week. It doesn’t take long for that kind of surplus to start adding pounds. What’s more, the dehydrating effect of alcohol causes your body to start retaining water, leading to bloating. So even a night of heavy drinking can make you look like you gained 20 pounds overnight. When people quit drinking, they often lose quite a bit of weight without even trying.
Established in 1939, High Watch is the world’s first 12-Step treatment center. Every individual who walks through our doors joins a definitive culture of compassion, dignity, and respect from a genuinely caring staff dedicated to seeing the disease of addiction find remission. Providing proven therapeutic approaches and comprehensive 12-Step education, patients leave High Watch with the confidence to maintain abstinence and live a healthy, happy, sober life. Start your journey today by calling 860.927.3772.