What happens when you stop drinking? How does your body react to giving up alcohol - health benefits explained

Giving up drinking could reduce your risk of having major health problems, improve your sex life, and save you money

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Roughly 29 million people in the UK drink alcohol, although the proportion of non-drinkers has risen slightly since 2015.

More than 130,000 Brits tried Dry January this year, the highest number ever to try the no-alcohol challenge.

29 million people in the UK drink alcohol29 million people in the UK drink alcohol
29 million people in the UK drink alcohol

There is clearly growing interest in the benefits of giving up or cutting down on alcohol consumption - but why is going sober good for you, and can it save you money?

Here is what you need to know about the benefits of giving up drinking:

What is the recommended amount of alcohol you should drink?

Men and women are advised to drink no more than 14 units of alcohol per week - if you regularly drink 14 units or more per week it is advised to spread your drinking over three or more days.

14 units is equivalent to six pints of average-strength beer or ten small glasses of lower-strength wine.

What are the health benefits of giving up drinking?

Short term benefits:

No more hangovers - instead of feeling sick, tired and sluggish after a big drinking session, you are likely to feel more refreshed in the morning and be more productive.

Improved mental health - alcohol is a depressant and affects neurotransmitters in the brain, contributing to poor mental health. Stopping drinking could improve your mood and overall mental health.

Improved sleep - while many people find they get to sleep more easily after having a drink, alcohol can reduce the amount of REM sleep you get, meaning you will feel tired the following day.

Better skin - alcohol dehydrates the body, including your skin, but giving up drinking will improve your hydration and make your skin look clearer.

Weight loss - those who are overweight and regular drinkers usually see a noticeable weight loss in the first few months after stopping drinking.

Improved sex life - after heavy drinking, some men can find it difficult to have or maintain an erection, and both men and women are less likely to have an orgasm.

More people than ever signed up for Dry January in the UK in 2022More people than ever signed up for Dry January in the UK in 2022
More people than ever signed up for Dry January in the UK in 2022

Long term benefits:

Reduced risk of alcohol related diseases - alcohol is linked to seven different cancers, liver disease, and heart disease.

Reduced risk of other long-term health problems - these include stroke, high blood pressure, and gut problems.

If you have an alcohol dependency:

For those with an alcohol dependency, giving up alcohol can cause physical withdrawal symptoms like shaking, sweating or nausea.

If you have an alcohol dependency it can be dangerous to completely stop drinking without the right medical support.

Withdrawal symptoms are most severe for the first 48 hours, and most sufferers feel better after a week, although it can take months for symptoms of withdrawal to completely go away.

You should seek medical support if you have alcohol dependency and plan to stop drinking.

How much money could you save by giving up alcohol?

This really depends on how much you’re drinking, what you’re drinking, and where you’re drinking it.

A six-pack of off-brand supermarket lager will probably cost less than one cocktail at a high street bar, however, regardless of what you drink, most people see a monetary saving when they give up alcohol.

Here’s a quick calculation to give a general idea of the savings you could make - say you go to the pub twice a week and have three pints each time.

The average cost of a pint is now about £3.95 outside of London, so that’s a cost of £23.70. By completely giving up these pub trips you could theoretically save over £1,200 each year.

In practice you may not actually see these savings, as your replacement for time spent at the pub may also cost money - or you might accompany your friends and stick to alcohol free drinks which, while cheaper, will still add up.

It’s likely that you’ll see some savings by giving up alcohol, but possibly not as much as is often claimed - while the health improvements will be a more noticeable benefit.

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