Is It Safe to Suddenly Stop Drinking Alcohol?

Could It Be Dangerous to Quit Cold-Turkey?

Alcohol abuse is a very serious disease that can be life-threatening if left untreated. That’s why all individuals with an alcohol abuse disorder are encouraged to quit drinking and stay abstinent from alcohol.

While quitting is the safest option when it comes to alcohol, is it completely safe to stop drinking cold-turkey? What could happen to your body if you suddenly stopped consuming alcohol?

Building A Tolerance to Alcohol

If you drink alcohol often for a long period of time, you will develop a tolerance to it. Since alcohol is a depressant, it slows your brain down when it enters the central nervous system. The brain then reacts by overproducing a stimulating chemical, dopamine, to compensate for the loss that comes with drinking alcohol. Eventually, your brain will get used to the overproduction of these chemicals.

The Sudden Switch to Sobriety

If your body is used to having alcohol in the system, it will get confused when you suddenly stop drinking. The central nervous system won’t know how to respond to the change, so the brain will keep producing the extra chemicals. This will result in undesirable symptoms, since the body is working to get itself back to normal.

Withdrawal: What Comes After Quitting

These symptoms are associated with overstimulation. As the body is readjusting, a series of side effects known as alcohol withdrawal may occur. Withdrawal may or may not happen as your body detoxes alcohol, depending on how severe the abuse disorder is.

Withdrawal may start anywhere from a few hours up until a day or two after someone stops drinking. Symptoms are typically the most severe between 24-72 hours after someone’s last drink. A person going through withdrawal from alcohol should expect their symptoms to last anywhere from five days to a week or so.

Common Symptoms of Withdrawal

While the withdrawal experience is different for everyone who goes through it, there are some general symptoms that usually take place. General and mild to moderate symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Insomnia & bad dreams
  • Difficulty thinking
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Feeling nervous
  • Shakiness
  • Clammy skin
  • Paleness
  • Nausea & vomiting
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • High blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Hand tremors
  • Sweating

While these symptoms may not be life-threatening, they are extremely uncomfortable. Mild to moderate side effects can be relieved or eliminated with the right medical treatment.

Dangerous Risks of Alcohol Withdrawal

Some other possible side effects are, unfortunately, more dangerous. These severe and possible fatal symptoms are known as Delirium Tremens (DTs). If someone has a severe case of withdrawal, they may experience the effects of DTs — hallucinations, convulsions, seizures, or cardiac disturbances.

Should You Suddenly Stop Drinking?

Quitting alcohol can be done successfully if it is handled under medical supervision. If you’re thinking of stopping, you will need some sort of assistance or support. Contact your healthcare provider and talk to supportive friends and family members to determine the best next steps.

Many people resist quitting drinking because of withdrawal. However, the symptoms of withdrawal are very worth it when it comes to living a happy and healthy life without alcohol.

Successful Detox Treatment

Proper treatment methods for alcohol withdrawal may include therapy, a 12-step program, other group meetings, vitamins, a balanced diet, and hydration. If you or a loved one is thinking about quitting alcohol, contact our team of substance abuse and treatment professionals by calling 866-345-2147.

Sources

https://www.verywellmind.com/symptoms-of-alcohol-withdrawal-63791

https://www.verywellmind.com/alcohol-withdrawal-63792

https://www.healthline.com/health/alcoholism/can-you-die-from-alcohol-withdrawal